Community News

WHERE WE’RE AT WITH THE DEMANDS

Originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, printed August 14. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in this issue or download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

The following seven demands have been generally adopted as the goals of the Richmond Rebellion.

1) REOPEN THE MARCUS-DAVID PETERS CASEWe call on Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin to reopen Marcus‘ case to provide a second chance for Justice.

Princess Blanding, sister of Marcus-David Peters and founder of Justice & Reformation, says she and her uncle Jeffrey Peters met July 7 with Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin to ask that the case be reopened. She said McEachin said she would review the case and, if she came up with a different conclusion than her predecessor, Michael Herring, she would reopen the case. McEachin worked under Herring for about 20 years. As of Aug. 13, Blanding says her family has yet to hear anything more from McEachin.

2) DEFUND THE POLICEReallocate funds from the Richmond Police Department’s extremely large budget to fund the Marcus Alert System and Civilian Review Board, as well as human services addressing health care, employment, our public education system, the environment and general community welfare.

On July 27, Richmond City Council voted 7-2 against a resolution that would have “requested an analysis of what the city gives the Richmond Police Department, with a goal of reassigning funds for mental health, social services and drug abuse services,” according to ABC Channel 8. The only council members supporting the resolution were 4th District representative Stepanie Lynch and the 9th District’s Michael Jones.

3) A MARCUS ALERT SYSTEMThe Marcus Alert System would mandate that mental health professionals be the first responders in a suspected or confirmed mental health crisis, with police only as their “back up” in the event that NON-LETHAL force is needed.

Also on July 27, City Council agreed to create a working group to develop the Marcus Alert, even though the Peters family is already working on this with Mayor Stoney. Princess Blanding and several other community organizers met with Stoney and one of his senior aides on July 13, along with officials from the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, Richmond and Henrico Health Departments and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mayor Stoney has publicly pledged that the Marcus Alert will be implemented in Richmond. Says Blanding, “My feelings are that actions speak louder than words. The City agreed to a follow-up meeting two weeks later and now they have pushed it out more than a month.” The next meeting with the mayor is now scheduled for Aug. 20.

On the state level, Delegate Jeffrey Bourne and Sen. Jennifer McClellan are sponsoring bills that would mandate localities create their own Marcus Alert systems. The two legislators are working with the Peters family and supporters on this effort. However, Blanding says her family is getting “MAJOR pushback on naming the bill after Marcus-David Peters. Political games all day. They do not want Marcus-David Peters’ name to be attached to this bill.”

4) AN INDEPENDENT CIVILIAN REVIEW BOARD WITH SUBPOENA POWER to receive and investigate claims of police abuse. We do not trust the police to police themselves.

Also on July 27, City Council voted to appoint a review board that, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “would be charged with laying the groundwork for an oversight body that could investigate complaints and other incidents involving the Richmond Police Department.” The board would be responsible for submitting a final report with recommendations for its framework and a proposed annual budget by March 1. Princess Blanding, who applied to join the board but was rejected because she is not a city resident, told the Defender she thought council’s decisions on the Marcus Alert and the Civilian Review Board were “both very strategic moves to make people think they are doing what the people want, but are just buying the City time until the elections.”

On the state level, Sen. Ghazala Hashmi and Delegate Patrick Hope are sponsoring bills that would allow, but not mandate, localities to create civilian review boards. They also are working with the Peters family. “This bill has no teeth,” Blanding said. “This is NOT what the people are demanding.”

5) The DROPPING OF ALL CHARGES of those members of our community who have been arrested in connection with the recent protests against the police murder of Mr. George Floyd.

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin has refused to drop all charges against all protesters, agreeing only to not ask for jail time for the hundreds of people charged with violating Gov. Northam’s 8 p.m. curfew. At the same time, she has declined to charge any Richmond police officers involved in a number of incidents that protesters have described as cases of police brutality, including one in which an officer drove his vehicle up onto a median strip and into a crowd of protesters. The only incident McEachin has said she is still investigating is the one at the Marcus-David Peters Circle when police officers fired tear gas at peaceful protesters a half-hour before the 8 p.m. curfew was to take effect.

6) IMMEDIATE REMOVAL OF THE FIVE CONFEDERATE STATUES ON MONUMENT AVENUE and all other statues and memorials to Confederate leaders in the city.

This demand has seen the most progress so far, with protesters themselves taking down the statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis on Monument Avenue and Gen. Williams Carter Wickham in Monroe Park, along with that of Christopher Columbus, who took a nose dive into Fountain Lake in Byrd Park.

In response, Mayor Stoney decided not to wait for action by a mostly hesitant City Council and ordered the removal of other symbols of the Confederacy, including the Monument Avenue statues of Generals J.E.B Stuart, “Stonewall” Jackson and Admiral Matthew Maury and the statue honoring Confederate soldiers and sailors at Libby Hill, plus several other white-supremacist symbols. The only remaining City-owned Confederate statue is the one honoring Gen. A.P. Hill, whose body is buried – standing up – under the statue itself. The fate of that statue is wrapped up with a court suit, as is the 60-foot-tall monument to Gen. Robert E. Lee, which is owned by the state of Virginia.

Meanwhile, the life-sized statue of Lee and busts of seven other Confederates were removed from the Virginia Capitol’s Old House Chamber by order of House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax). City Council has at least discussed changing the name of the Lee Bridge and the section of the Jefferson Davis Highway that runs through Richmond. Many other symbols remain, including streets named after Confederate figures.

7) MAKE PUBLIC THE NAMES OF ALL POLICE OFFICERS CHARGED WITH ACTS OF ABUSE DURING THE PROTESTS

Richmond CA McEachin has said she will do this going forward, but will not make public the names of any officers already charged.

Categories: Community News

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