After Richmond police fired tear gas into a group of peaceful protesters on Monday night, Mayor Levar Stoney asked for the community to come to City Hall on Tuesday so he could apologize. A large crowd took him up on it.
“I want to begin today by saying I’m sorry,” he said. “What happened yesterday at the Lee monument was a peaceful demonstration, a demonstration that I, as your mayor, had asked you to do, to be peaceful.”
With Police Chief Will Smith standing behind him, Stoney told the emotional crowd that officers will be held accountable for their actions at the peaceful protest.
“When this involves children, that is wrong and inexcusable. Every peaceful protester should be allowed to protest.”
Members of the crowd called Stoney a sellout, yelling that he is a black man who supports a system that oppresses black people.
“I just want to say this, I am just as mad and upset about the things that happen to black people,” Stoney said. “I’ve been a black man for 39 years of my life, each and every day, it is in my DNA.”
Members of the crowd demanded that the officers' badge numbers and names be released so that the community can ensure that they are held accountable.
“I promise you disciplinary action will take place. I will expedite it,” Stoney replied. “We all work within the system and I know the system does not work for all of us.”
Jared Ivey, an organizer for Monday’s march and Tuesday’s event with Stoney, read a list of potential police policy changes that a white ally sent to him. As Ivey was reading the list on his phone, members of the crowd were shouting over top of him expressing displeasure with the writer of the proposed changes being white. While it was hard to hear exactly what Ivey read, Stoney and Smith both appeared to agree with some of the proposals.
Members of the crowd yelled for everyone to move back from the front as a young girl tried to ask the mayor a question while she sat on the shoulders of an adult. She told him she was scared of getting too close because she did not want to be tear gassed.
“I don’t want you to think like that," said Stoney.
The crowd and speakers continually noted that even though a peaceful march was held on Monday, tear gas still was deployed.
“I can commit to you that such a thing will never happen again. I will march with you. I will stand with you” Stoney said.
Organizer Natalie Andre’, a Howard University law student, told the crowd that “all lives don’t fucking matter because our lives don’t fucking matter.” She then turned to Stoney and told him that “I can’t support you if you don’t walk with me.”
Smith briefly tried to speak to the crowd but his words over a megaphone were mostly inaudible due to the lack of a proper sound system. Smith did take a knee for a few seconds with organizers before stepping back onto the stage and handing the megaphone back to organizers.
Stoney spoke once more before going back inside of City Hall. He said he will be at the Capitol building at 6 p.m. to march with the crowd to the Lee monument tonight.