Posts Tagged ‘VCU’

On September 27th, several of us went to the Manchester court building to support Jeremy at his preliminary hearing for the charges filed against him by the VCU Police. For those of you who might not know, Jeremy was arrested on charges of slashing 7 VCU car tires, worth $1,330.00, making the charge a felony destruction of property. Jeremy and his public defender, at the hearing, were allowed to see some of the evidence that VCU has against him, and surprise surprise, without having any physical evidence (besides a few pictures of Jeremy AFTER he had been arrested and the picture of a tool confiscated after his arrest), the judge ruled that the case would be continued in a Grand Jury hearing on November 7. The Commonwealths’ attorney, Christopher Toepp, is the same friend of the police who tried to convict those arrested in the Monroe Park Occupation at the beginning of the year, as well as the Defenders in the African Burial Ground protest. He lost both of those cases,  but Jeremy was also told that he specifically requested this trial because “he wants to see it done right” and that he is looking for a felony conviction and jail time for Jeremy.

Jeremy will be sticking with his public defender for the time being, and has been fundraising for the last month or so to raise money for another attorney. Unfortunately, lawyers are unrightfully expensive, and the person he has in mind to represent him requires a $2,500 retainer fee to even start working on the case. Any help would be greatly appreciated, whether it be financial, advice, a friendly word, or  helping to put on a fundraising event to benefit his legal fund.  Also Jeremy has requested that as many people who can attend further trial dates as supporters is essential and appreciated, the more eyes and ears during this ordeal the better.  There has been no word yet as to whether or not Jeremy will be able to attend the Nov. 7 date, as it is usually private to the judge and attorneys involved.

Anyone who wishes to donate can do so using our handy PayPal button on the website, and be sure to specify what you want the money to be used for.

Thanks everyone for your support so far and in the future!

Last night was the 2nd public meeting of people working to organize Occupy Richmond. This movement has no leaders, no organizers, no hierarchy. The meeting yesterday was not perfect, as could have been expected. There were over 250 people there, many new to organizing, consensus process, facilitating and more.

The main decisions being made yesterday were regarding the time, date, and location of the beginning of the Occupation. A large group started off the discussion, going through some bare bones facilitation and decision making basics. Then folks split into smaller groups to talk about the date and location.

In smaller groups and in smaller conversations throughout the night, there were many discussion about the economy, politics, rights and more. The types of discussions that do not happen on a very regular basis among strangers in Virginia. Just having these discussions, no matter how imperfect, is significant.

Ultimately, what was decided was to avoid conflicting with the TRAP protest already scheduled for October 15th from 1-3pm in Monroe Park. TRAP is the recent Virginia legislation aimed at forcing abortion clinics to meet hospital standards, which would have the chilling effect of shutting down 17 of the state’s 21 abortion clinics. This new rule, wrapped up in the word safety and health, is really about limiting women’s rights to abortion and the health care they need.

The Occupy Richmond group is encouraging people to participate in the TRAP protest. Occupy Richmond will then meet at 4pm on October 15th in Monroe Park. At that time a location will be chosen for the Occupation. Repeat, location TBD.

On the issue of location, there were many ideas thrown around. Kanawah Plaza, Monroe Park, Capitol Hill, FedEx Plaza, locations around VCU, and more were all discussed. There were some folks fixated on Kanawah Plaze for its proximity to the Federal Reserve Bank. Others pointed out that the Federal Reserve Bank is not necessarily the main target of this event. Also that the consequences of trespassing/making mistakes at the Federal Reserve are a lot higher than other places. And that Occupying Kanawaha Plaza would displace homeless persons who sleep there on a regular basis.

This meeting was not perfect, by any means. Folks from marginalized groups swiftly felt marginalized by the process, which is not a good place to start. More white men spoke than other people. Issues of privilege were not really addressed, or understood by many folks in the crowd. Instead of actual consensus “modified consensus” was used, which basically makes it a direct democracy with a limit on how large the majority must be to silence the minority.Hopefully folks (not from marginalized groups) can step up as the Occupy Richmond idea continues to do some education and discussion regarding issues of privilege, among other things.

However, there were a lot of new faces, and a lot of good conversations that did occur. The creation of an autonomous space, in and of itself, can be an empowering positive thing. When this space is created, hopefully radical and anarchist and awesome people in Richmond can find inspiring ways to use this space. Workshops, discussions, and more are all possible once a space has been established.

Here is a video of part of the meeting:

Again- in the time between now and the 15th there is a lot of preparation and education that can be done. From Know Your Rights workshops, to getting new batteries for a flashlight, to taking a few minutes to read about privilege, anyone planning on participating in this occupation owes it to themselves and there fellow occupiers to do some preparing if they can.

http://www.monroeparkoccupation.wordpress.com has information about an occupation of Monroe Park that happened earlier in 2011.

Yesterday we held a demonstration and vigil in downtown Richmond for Troy Anthony Davis. He was scheduled to be executed at 7pm last night in Georgia. There was an inspiring turn out of supporters for the demonstration and vigil, with local groups such as the Anarchist Black Cross, Defenders of Freedom Justice and Equality, Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and Amnesty International. There were students from local community colleges, VCU, and UofR.

In Monroe Park ,while we were holding an 8 minute silent vigil, we received word that the execution had been postponed. Clapping went up in our crowd of 40-50 people. We learned that this stay might be as brief as moments, or could be hours, and that the warrant for Troy’s death was good until midnight.

Georgia executed Troy Davis after 10pm last night. Another casualty to the race and class wars in this country. Another victim to be added to the ever growing list of people murdered by the state.

We must not forget Troy Davis. We must not forget, as he said, that there are many more Troy Davis’. We must not forget the failure of petitions, letters, protests, UN requests, Amnesty International requests, NAACP requests and more. Asking did not work. The justice system does not work. The people, locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally are not listened to when we use our voices.

Now is the time to start thinking about how, as a movement, we can be listened to, and what that will take. What we must do to create real change. How we can stop people from being tortured and dying in jails and prisons. We can start addressing all of these issues here in Richmond. We can build stronger movements. There are next steps to be taken.

There is no peace for Troy Davis or anyone else to rest in. We must honor their memories by continuing to struggle for freedom and against oppression in all of its forms.

 

 

After a long and relatively uneventful night of doing Copwatch for first fridays on Broad Street, S and I were ready to make the trek back to the Wingnut to review the footage acquired over the course of the night. It had been an evening of very large groups of very bored pigs, standing in groups of up to ten up and down Broad St., most likely very upset that there were no younger folks of color to push around to pass the time on a Friday night. After a humorous impromptu interview with the 4th precinct commander, Mike Strawder, S and I had made it back to our bikes, parked in front of the New York Pizza restaurant. S had unlocked his bike, and as I bent to unlock my bike, I felt handcuffs close over my left wrist as another pair of hands closed around my right arm. I looked up, and there were at least 15 VCU and Richmond police officers surrounding S and I, and I was promptly told that I was under arrest and that I had a felony warrant out on my head, though they were not, at that moment, very forthcoming about what I the warrant was for. S jumped to his feet and immediately had his camera trained on the officers and myself, and watched as they moved me to an alley “where  no one could see me”. My pockets were searched, my knife confiscated, and my bag taken from me as two undercover agents kept their video cameras trained on me throughout the ordeal.

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A reminder that although VCU has finally closed the parking lot on the Richmond African Burial Ground, 4 people still have court this Wednesday over their act of civil disobedience protesting the use of the Burial Ground as a parking lot.  Please come out this Wednesday to support them! Details below.

From the Richmond Defenders:

As the subject header suggests, the battle to reclaim the Richmond African Burial Ground is finally over!  You may recall at the last COC meeting, five individuals volunteered to become members of the Coordinating Committee (CC).  The CC members are:  Autumn Barrett, David Boothe, Donnell Brantley, Rolandah “Cleopattrah” McMillan, and Janet “Queen Nzinga” Taylor.  The charge of the CC is to keep you informed and we will endeavor to do just that.

While we can relish this victory, we must still remain ever vigilant until this Sacred Ground is properly memorialized.  Below is the statement released by the Defenders on behalf of the COC, and important dates for you to remember.  We would also like to thank you, the community, for taking a stand and helping to bring this reclamation to fruition.

We look forward ever, backward NEVER!

Janet B. Taylor
Coordinating Committee
Celebrate the Reclamation of the Burial Ground/Support the Four Advocates
The VCU parking lot which for years desecrated the Richmond African Burial Ground was finally closed, Saturday, May 21 and is scheduled to be removed starting, Tuesday, May 24.  The African Burial Ground, formerly the Burial Ground for Negroes, is the city’s oldest known municipal cemetery for enslaved Africans and free people of African descent.

After years of community agitation, the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year passed a bill authorizing the transfer of the 3.4 acre site from VCU to the City of Richmond.  The City has placed a marker on the site explaining its historical and cultural significance as well as detailing Richmond’s leading role in the internal U.S. slave trade.

Part of the activism that eventually led to the closing of the parking lot occurred, Tuesday, April 12, the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.  Eight community activists were successful in closing down the parking lot for an hour and a half.  Four of the eight -Donnell Brantley, Rolandah “Cleopattrah” McMillan, Autumn Barrett and Phil Wilayto – were subsequently arrested and charged with trespassing.  They are being represented pro bono by the law firm of Benjamin & DesPortes, a leading criminal defense firm.  As McMillan explained, “We decided to close the parking lot ourselves…We wanted the whole world to see that this state institution has no respect for the community that surrounds it.”

For more information, please contact Janet “Queen Nzinga” Taylor, 804-347-3598 or OneRastaQueen@hotmail.com.

IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER:

Monday, May 23, 6 pm
Public Hearing, Richmond City Council Chambers, 2nd floor/City Hall, 900 W. Broad St. The City will vote to accept the land transfer from VCU.

Tuesday, May 24, 10:30 am
Groundbreaking Ceremony, Richmond African Burial Ground, 15th & Broad streets.

Wednesday, May 25, 9 am
Support vigil outside the Manchester Courthouse, 920 Hull Street, followed by the 10 am trial of the four African Burial Ground advocates who shut down the VCU parking lot, April 12.  Please wear a white shirt or blouse as a show of solidarity.

Sunday, June 5, 4-6 pm
Community Organizing Committee meeting, location TBA. (Note:  Meetings are always the first Sunday of the month, 4-6pm; you will be notified of the location.)

——————————————- Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality A group of Richmond area residents working to improving the lives of people in our community. Phone & Fax 804.644.5834 . PO Box 23202, Richmond VA 23223 . DefendersFJE@hotmail.com

From http://www.monroeparkoccupation.wordpress.com

After nearly a month, the nine occupiers who were detained on the night of March 17th, during the upheaval of the Monroe Park Occupation, appeared in Richmond-Manchester Court before judge D.E. Cheek.
Arriving early, only one person chose to maintain their pro-bono lawyer, while six others eagerly fired their bewildered public defenders. Shortly into the morning’s docket, one of the two occupiers charged solely with trespassing was tried, and plead guilty, for a fine of $25.

After nearly two hours of anticipation, and five of the eight remaining persons being singled out and removed from the courtroom for the most innocuous behavior – nodding, gesturing, changing seats – all were called up to the stand for a trial which was not only entirely laughable, but most certainly emphatic of the people’s power to represent themselves.

Armed with legal precedent, and other vital evidence of the farcical nature of the charges levied against the defendents, the group (while representing only themselves as individuals) moved for dismissal of all charges. The charge of obstruction of justice was soon addressed, and Jones v. Commonwealth, as well as Atkins v. Commonwealth were cited in a most succinct and successful manner, under the argument that no individual actually physically impeded the process of arrest, but only made the arresting officers’ task more difficult by reserving their 5th Amendment right. Already, the youthful commowealth attorney was clearly fazed by the actions of a seemingly motley crew of contemptuous dregs. While the CA attempted to stammer out more inaccuracy and untruth to argue forth that charge, the judge bemusedly rejected his claims after the defendants briefly clarified that the obstruction of justice summons was issued prior to convening with the magistrate, therefore containing the circumstances to the same of the cited precedents.

Moving on to the trespassing charges, the defendants proposed the unconstitutional nature of the statute defining park hours and use of the park accordingly. The clause contained within said statute explained the possibility of use of the park outside of regular hours by obtaining a permit from the mayor’s office, but did not clearly define the requirements or discretion used for acquiring this permit. The judge did not choose to fully recognize this claim, but also did not have the power to rule the statute unconstitutional outright. The defense next proposed that since all conventional and advised forms of action (i.e., contacting city council) had been exhausted, direct action was necessary, as was the presence of the occupation at night to successfully express the dire nature of the concerns being raised. Therefore, it was most simply an exercise of free speech. Also, questions were raised as to the conclusions left to be drawn from the most curious police behavior experienced during the occupation.
The state having very little to say in their favor, and having had much of that belittled by the judge, it was not long before the court settled on the dismissal of obstruction charges, and a $25 dollar fine for all but one trespassing charge, which was dropped due to its own false nature. The remaining seven who were fined are appealing the charge.

Despite the Richmond Police Departments’ claim that mace pellets were NOT fired at protesters in the crowd, a member of Richmond Copwatch was directly shot at by one of the riot police.

Nearing the end of the riot, police fired 9 tear gas cannisters over the heads of the protesters into the intersection of Grace and Laurel Streets, clearing out students, rioters, and VCU police alike. The cloud of tear gas blew East down Grace Street, effectively poisoning the air well past Belvidere.

If you have any more video footage of the police breaking protocol, abusing the rights of Richmond residents or VCU students, or have any stories you would like Richmond Copwatch and the Wingnut to post online, please let us know. The more testimonials surface regarding police misconduct, especially relatingto the VCU riot, the closer the people of Richmond will be to holding the police Department accountable for their actions.

One of the main reasons so many people endd up crowded at close quarters was because of the police blocking off many streets in the area- essentially forcing people into a few streets. Even hours later the police had streets blocked off.

Tonight, a combination of VCU police, Richmond police, and VA State police proved that if you go looking for a fight, you will find one. They went looking for a fight.

Virginia Commonwealth University  had a basketball game tonight in Houston. Because it was a Final Four game, and because people got a little wild in the streets last weekend when VCU won, it was reported that the police were going to make a big presence in downtown Richmond tonight. It was decided for Copwatch to go to that area to patrol and record the police. What Copwatch discovered was a huge escalation of police presence, compared to last Sunday, which resulted in a sizeable riot.

Copwatch got to the VCU area in time to record a bit of the set up the police had. It was extensive. They were blocking off numerous streets, side streets along Broad. They had a observation tower set up at Floyd and Laurel. They covered lampposts on Broad Street with vaseline.  They had riot cops dispersed around the area- in front of the Siegel center, on Cherry Street, all along Broad street. They also had Virginia State Police, who set up their police cars blocking Broad street at the intersection of Broad and Laurel. Their plan seemed to be to force people to Monroe Park.

The police also had numerous large white buses and one red one- that seemed either full of riot cops, or there to hold prisoners. Police had oversize canisters of mace, guns that shot mace pellets, and tear gas can launchers.

VCU lost their game. Instead of people coming screaming into the streets like they did on Sunday, it was a slower move of people. Most had been ready to celebrate and seemed just disappointed.To rally their spirits, people started a chant of VCU, and seemed focused on school spirit in a unifying sort of way.

Instead of allowing people to just hang out in the street and share a public moment, the police decided to attempt to exert control over the situation. It was only when the police began to try and herd people that problems seriously began.  Riot cops with horses began forcing people East on Broad street from the Siegel center. Well, East on Broad street was a huge road blockade of State Police at Laurel. So one group of police tried to shove people (hundreds at least of students and others) into another group of police.

There was not any sort of clear or loud announcement of dispersal order or anything else like that. If an announcement was made it was not amplified enough to be effective. Trying to shove and force a large crowd into a bottleneck (the only route out was Laurel and a lot of students were coming the other way up Laurel from the dorms) resulted in a lot of anger and confusion.

We were only present on Broad Street and do not have a solid report of how things went down near Monroe Park.

The police continued to shove people on Broad street. Some people had fireworks, and a few people had set toilet paper on fire. in the street. When the people on the front line didn’t move (because there was a giant crowd in their way) the riot cops (with shields up and helmets on) started to shoot point blank with mace pellets.

One of the most dangerous parts of what happened during the riot were the stampedes caused by the police shooting tear gas and mace unannounced into the crowd. There were no audible warnings about the use of either of these substances. We found out that numerous people began to have serious breathing difficulty and need ambulances as a result of the mace and tear gas. However, because of the many streets blocked by the police, getting medical attention was difficult.

The cops finally shoved the crowd around the corner of Broad and Laurel. By this point many in the crowd were furious. Bottles, bricks, and rocks rained down on the cops from the crowd. When the riot cops could walk their line no further (tactical error in regards to geography on their part) they doused the entire area of Grace and Laurel with multiple canisters of tear gas. The crowd dispersed in all directions, although it seems that the unrest was still not over. Reports of dumpsters on fire on grace street, as well as a large crowd getting tear gassed in Monroe Park continued to come in.

What the Richmond Police, VCU police, and Virginia State Police proved tonight is that if you are looking for a fight you will find one. They went looking, and due to their aggressive set up and behavior, they found one. Hopefully no one is permanently hurt or maimed by the use of “less lethal” weapons tonight in an area full of people, students, homes, dorms, businesses, and restaurants.

Pictures and video of the police will be added tomorrow hopefully. We concentrated on recording the set up positions of the police.

The Richmond Defenders for Freedom, Justice, and Equality just released an announcement that they are holding their own ceremony in regards to the new historical markers along the Richmond Walk of Enslaved Africans. The Mayor, Governor, and others decided to postpone the originally scheduled event this Sunday in order to attend a VCU basketball game. This scheduling change is extremely problematic, considering the fact that VCU continues to park cars on the African Burial Ground despite full knowledge of the many reasons for that to be disrespectful at best.

If you can, please attend the ceremony on Sunday in support of the Defenders and others organizing against racism in Richmond. The statement from the Defenders is below:

PO Box 23202, Richmond, VA 23223  Ph: 804.644.5834  Fax: 804.332.5225
E-mail: DefendersFJE@hotmail.com www.DefendersFJE.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 31, 2011
MEDIA CONTACTS: ANA EDWARDS or PHIL WILAYTO at (804) 644-5834 or DefendersFJE@hotmail.com

Defenders pull out of City’s Slave Trail Commission ceremony; call for independent event on April 3

In light of the City’s inexcusable postponement of Sunday’s ceremony honoring sites associated with Richmond’s dominant role in the U.S. slave trade, the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality have informed the city’s Slave Trail Commission that we will no longer be participating in this event. Instead, we are calling on the community to hold its own independent event on Sunday, at the time and place of the original program.

Originally scheduled for April 3 – Richmond’s Emancipation Day – the Slave Trail Commission’s ceremony was to celebrate the unveiling of 17 historical markers along Richmond’s Walk of Enslaved Africans. Ana Edwards, Chair of the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, had been invited by Commission Chair Delores McQuinn to unveil the marker at the African Burial Ground, at 15th and East Broad streets.

The Defenders had initially accepted the invitation because we thought it important to acknowledge the placement of these markers as a good step forward in making Richmond’s Black history visible, and to again demand the immediate closing of the Virginia Commonwealth University parking lot and removal of the asphalt that now covers this sacred site.

However, the Commission rescheduled the event for April 10 after Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones and Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell decided that, instead of honoring their commitment to speak at Sunday’s ceremony, they would instead travel to Houston, Texas, to watch the VCU Rams compete in the Final Four NCAA basketball game.

After nearly 10 years of struggle by the Defenders and many other community organizations and individuals, a bill introduced by Delegate McQuinn to authorize the transfer of the Burial Ground property to the City was unanimously adopted by this year’s General Assembly. Further, a budget amendment introduced by the governor authorizing $3.3.million to compensate VCU for the transfer also passed. And yet, the university – the area’s dominant economic and political powerhouse – continues to use the Burial Ground for a parking lot.

The VCU connection in the decision to postpone Sunday’s unveiling ceremony simply adds insult to this historical and cultural injury, said Edwards. (more…)

Tuesday night was another cold night in Monroe Park. However, that did not stop the Monroe Park Occupation from setting up more of the camp. There is now a banner which reads “Free Tuition For Everyone”, as well as anarchist flags, a Really Really Free Market table, a food tent (kitchen), and a couch. Throughout Tuesday occupiers talked with passing pedestrians about the issues they were concerned with.

There were between 12-15 of us Tuesday night… including folks who regularly congregate in the park, a couple folks from IWW, Food Not Bombs, Queer Action, and a surprising number of people who just came over to play music and have a great time.

Friends, new friends, and supporters stopped by throughout the night to check on the Occupation and hang out in the park.

Tonight a storm is scheduled to begin which will last through Thursday day. Anyone who has any tents, tarps, ponchos, or blankets to bring to the park is encouraged to do so. Anyone willing to get a little wet is also encouraged to spend the night in the park.

More pictures after the break (more…)