Today, the court denied our request for a temporary restraining order that would have ordered the Richmond Police Department (RPD) and Virginia State Police (VSP) to stop declaring “unlawful assemblies” without merit and using tear gas and other tools of war against protesters.
We’re disappointed with the court’s decision and we will continue to fight in court to bring justice to people who are speaking out against systemic, anti-Black racism by continuing to pursue this lawsuit on behalf of the Virginia Student Power Network and individual protestors. While the court’s opinion suggests that the appointment of yet another new police chief in Richmond leaves open the possibility that the tactics of police might change, we fear the violent police response to protesters will remain the same as the faces in the chief’s uniform have changed.
We’re also disappointed that the court raised questions about whether Virginians have a right to challenge in state courts unconstitutional police actions and violations of their civil rights under the Virginia constitution. We call on the General Assembly to take action at their upcoming special session to ensure that there is an unquestioned right to sue on constitutional and civil rights claims in state court.
The excessive use of force seen night after night in Richmond must end. As the lawsuit continues, we call on Gov. Ralph Northam to stop the violence by rescinding the regulations at the Lee Monument and directing VSP to allow people to gather undisturbed. Instead of seeking peace, the governor has doubled down on police use of force. As we were in court fighting on behalf of these protesters, the governor was signing an executive order to extend to July 30 his expansive endorsement of the tactics police have been using and authorization to use the Virginia National Guard to increase the militarized presence in our neighborhoods.
It is time for the governor, the mayor and the heads of the Richmond, State and Capitol police to deescalate the police response and direct their attention to addressing the systemic anti-Black racism in the city and within their ranks that has been called out by the protestors. Now is the time to work with the community to reimagine the role of policing. Now is the time to divest from police and reinvest in solution-oriented community programs rather than continuing to use unjustified force to curtail protesters’ constitutional rights.