Mayor Stoney marches with Richmond, commits to reform measures
Stoney to establish crisis alert, Citizen Review Board, introduce ordinance to remove Confederate monuments, and implement racial equity study
On Tuesday, June 2, Mayor Levar Stoney met with hundreds of protestors outside of City Hall to apologize for the Richmond Police Department’s (RPD) use of tear gas on a peaceful gathering around the Lee Monument the evening before.
The mayor, along with Chief of Police Will Smith, apologized to peaceful protestors and remains committed to taking steps to improve the RPD.
“Protestors should always be able to exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully and without threat of violence,” said Mayor Stoney. “That’s your right, and we violated that yesterday,” he said, referring to the tear-gassing.
Mayor Stoney has spoken to Colette McEachin, the Commonwealth Attorney, who is pursuing an independent investigation into the incident at the Lee Monument. Disciplinary action will be taken by the city against any police officers who violated RPD policy.
Many members of the group gathered at City Hall voiced specific concerns to the mayor and police chief over megaphone, feeding the conversation with personal anecdotes and proposals for reform.
“I understand my role, as with any good leader, was largely to listen,” said Mayor Stoney after the event. “Apologize from the bottom of my heart, and then just listen to the many young Black men and women who bared their souls to me.”
Later in the day, the mayor marched with Richmond protestors from the Virginia State Capitol to the Lee Monument. He was joined by Delegate Lamont Bagby, Chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and Councilman Mike Jones.
Speaking to the crowd before the march began, Mayor Stoney made a commitment to enacting a crisis alert, also known as the Marcus Alert, exploring the creation of a Citizen Review Board (CRB), and reiterated RPD’s commitment to existing policy banning the use of chokeholds.
The Marcus Alert is named after Essex County Public Schools teacher and Virginia Commonwealth University graduate Marcus David Peters, who was killed in 2018 by a Richmond Police officer while experiencing a mental health crisis. The alert would enable the RPD and Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA) to work collaboratively on calls for service related to persons experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis, with a focus on de-escalation by law enforcement and crisis intervention by mental health experts.
In response to a recommendation by Peters’ family and in support of ongoing community advocacy in the aftermath of his death, the Stoney administration and Richmond Police Department have been in conversation with RBHA on the creation and implementation of this crisis alert system since 2019. Mayor Stoney plans to engage with the family of Peters in the coming weeks to further collaborative dialogue around the details of the Marcus Alert and how it will operate. The Mayor will then introduce an ordinance to Richmond City Council.
The Stoney administration is committed to the establishment of a CRB, which should be an entity independent of the police department’s internal affairs and consist of a diverse group of stakeholders. The mayor and Chief Smith are committed to working with the community on the structure and purpose of a local CRB.
Throughout the protest, the monuments of Confederate leaders on Monument Avenue have been thoroughly spray painted and served as rallying spaces for protestors. The city is granted the power to take down Confederate monuments on city land July 1, per recent action by the General Assembly.
Come July 1, the Stoney administration will introduce an ordinance, along with Councilman Mike Jones, to remove all Confederate monuments on Monument Avenue.
“I appreciate the recommendations of the Monument Avenue Commission – those were the appropriate recommendations at the time. But times have changed, and removing these statues will allow the healing process to begin for so many Black Richmonders and Virginians,” said Mayor Stoney. “Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy – it is filled with diversity and love for all – and we need to demonstrate that.”
Moreover, earlier this year, the city began working on steps to ensure racial equity is a core component of its policies and practices. The city has proposed a racial equity strategy, which consists of racial equity training for staff, to include departmental equity-focused action plans, and a racial equity study to help provide the necessary roadmap and tools for greater inclusion and equity within city government. The mayor is committed to this work in order to help dismantle racist systems and policies and build more just ones that provide the opportunity for all city residents to succeed and thrive.
“Yesterday, I marched with Richmond, for Richmond,” said Mayor Stoney. “George Floyd’s death may have happened in Minnesota, but the shock waves are bringing very valid pain to the surface in our city. Last night, Richmond told me to channel our city’s pain into reform.”
“Before the pandemic, I spent each and every day meeting Richmonders, gaining new perspectives on this city we all call home,” said Mayor Stoney. “The consensus is that some serious healing has to take place. We have so much work to do to build an equitable city and I’m committed to working with my fellow Richmonders to do so. That entails reforms to address racist systems, combating this public health crisis and addressing health inequities, and remaining committed to my administration’s priorities to life people up, including affordable housing, strong public education systems, economic empowerment, and fast and reliable public transportation.”
For the nights of May 31 to June 2, the City of Richmond was under an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. That curfew is no longer in effect.