Some perspectives from last night’s protests in Fredericksburg
While we posted the official police statement about last night’s protests and police action in Fredericksburg, there are lots of other observations out there on social media from people who were there. It’s a little tricky to sort through exactly what happened, but here are some words from some people who were there. I’ll add to this as I get more.
Some recurring themes I’m hearing from people:
- Several people have told me that they felt like the protesters were generally being very peaceful, though most have said there were a few individuals who were loudly agitating and doing things like knocking over trash cans.
- There is a feeling from many people that a lot of the people downtown, particularly later in the evening, might not have been from the city.
- Most people in the crowd near City Hall were totally caught by surprise by the tear gas that was used–there didn’t seem to be a specific trigger for the use of the gas, at least from the crowd’s perspective
Observations from Delegate Joshua Cole
Perspective from participant Caroline Connors (originally shared on Facebook)
Here is my perspective from last night.
I got off of work at around 9, and from the top of Hanover st, I could hear voices resonating, so I assumed that the protests were still proceeding. I saw a couple who said they had been tear gassed and were waiting for a ride home. I made my way up William st and from what I saw, most everybody had already dispersed.
I got to Hyperion and saw a friend of mine and a few people out with signs, so I joined them and waited to see if anybody else was still lingering so that we could all march together. Then the coolest thing happened: a huge mass of young people marching together, practically in unison up the one way street towards us.
We joined them and continued to march our way around, along with a small parade of cars playing upbeat music. It made my heart skip a beat in the best way possible. There was a young woman who was leading us, who I did not get the name of unfortunately, but she had been a leader out there all day, from Cowan to Downtown. We stopped to prepare ourselves for what was to come. We all kneeled and I took off my shirt and wrapped it around my face. I was ready to protect and help whoever needed it, and be an eye witness for any sketchy wrongdoings on behalf of the police officers or individuals that were vandalizing for reasons other than the fight against white supremacy. We marched to the Fredericksburg courthouse and chanted.
Police were already lined up out front, armed and ready to protect themselves. No one was trying to incite violence or evoke the officers negatively. Many encouraged them to join us in our kneeling and marching. Even a little parade with a young black boy, waving out of the sun roof, came driving between the two crowds and everybody on our side cheered.
But not too shortly after, that’s when, without warning, police began shooting tear gas at us. Many got away. A small group of us had to help some people jump over a fence to escape the burn of the gas.
Everybody dispersed once again, but we collected once more and marched back towards Caroline st. From there, it was a constant back and forth between the forces beating their shields with their batons in unison like a marching band, to intimidate, and us trying to stay together and provide everybody with milk and water, as they continued to shoot tear gas, spray mace, and what sounded like the shooting of rubber bullets. I saw one white guy throw down a trash can, but shortly after, a group of protesters ran to the scene to quickly clean up the mess.
Every time the cops cornered us in with smoke, shields, and flashing lights, the crowd started to fizzle out. One group I believe stuck together and continued to march towards the river, led by the young woman I brought up earlier.
They eventually gave us an 11:30p curfew (at 10 mins past 11:30), and anyone they came in contact with would be arrested on the spot. My friends and I were trying to get back to the car, but they wouldn’t let us go in that direction, so we had to do a big loop just to get back.
At that point it was 12p, and I had to get home to coach at 5:30a the next day. From my perspective, there were a few people who were trying to incite violence just for fun, not for the mission. The police, I feel, could’ve handled the situation with a little more empathy.
Sure, their job is to protect and serve, but it felt as though the last thing they were doing was protecting the people who were marching for their lives.
I am open to discussion.