Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) officials expect that it will cost more than $100,000 to repair the damage inflicted by violent protesters on the university’s Richmond campus over the recent weekend.
“It is heartbreaking to see extensive damage at our Monroe Park Campus following a violent demonstration overnight in Richmond,” VCU President Michael Rao wrote on July 27 in a campus-wide message.
Hundreds of protesters marched to Richmond Police headquarters near Monroe Park late on July 25 for a demonstration billed as support for Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon, which has been the scene of almost two months of violence against federal agents protecting federal property.
The police declared an unlawful assembly and dispersed the protesters, who tore up police tape, threw fireworks and asphalt chunks at police officers, and left behind shattered windows and a burning dump truck.
“About 80 windows were broken in a dozen buildings along with site furnishings dragged onto the street and damaged and numerous buildings tagged with graffiti,” Rao said. “Damage is being assessed now, but it is expected to be more than $100,000.”
According to Rao, the university has been informed by law enforcement that those demonstrators were “different” compared to those participating in other demonstrations that occurred in the city in recent weeks.
“The protest was promoted in social media and flyers to be destructive, ostensibly to support protests in Portland,” he said. “We are concerned about groups that promote destruction and violence co-opting important social justice reform movements.”
“VCU supports free speech and stands in solidarity with those peacefully expressing messages of social justice and equity for all people. VCU does not condone—under any circumstance—acts of violence or vandalism, regardless of the purported cause,” Rao said, adding that the university has asked the state’s attorney to press criminal charges against any individuals involved with the violence.
Richmond police reported that six protesters were arrested July 25 on various charges, including unlawful assembly, rioting with a firearm, and assault on a law enforcement officer.
“The city of Richmond is open and welcomes those who would like to come here in expression of their First Amendment rights,” Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said during a press briefing. “However, we have to take action when we know that violence is coming.”