Richmond will remain under a state of emergency until Aug. 30, due to “civil unrest,” that has been in effect since May 31, according to an order Gov. Ralph Northam signed Friday at the request of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.
Stoney wrote in a letter to Northam on Wednesday that the “climate of our city has again risen,” referring to demonstrations last weekend that resulted in police using chemical agents, while protesters set a dump truck on fire and shattered storefronts. Events last weekend resulted in the arrest of more than 20 people.
Stoney said that the Richmond Department of Fire and Emergency Services is operating on limited resources to address “building, trash, dumpster and car fires as a result of looters and disgruntled protesters.”
“The bandwidth of our personnel will reach its limit due to the additional demand to curtail damage done by bad-faith demonstrators,” Stoney said.
Stoney made no mention of the Richmond Police Department or Virginia State Police, which have been the primary agencies responding to protests.
The order gives the Northam administration the ability to deploy additional state resources to “implement recovery and mitigation operations and activities” to return the city to “pre-event conditions as much as possible.”
That includes emergency funding for government response to the protests and activation of the Virginia National Guard, according to the order. The Northam administration has said it has “absolutely no plans to deploy the National Guard” in Richmond, and that a reference to it in the emergency order is standard language.
Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky said in a statement that it is “standard practice” to approve local emergency requests. “I would note that Richmond is the only locality in the Commonwealth that continues to request these emergency declarations,” she added.
In his letter to Northam, Stoney pinned Saturday’s demonstrations on “extremist groups,” though law enforcement officials have not provided evidence supporting that claim. The majority of people arrested Saturday and Sunday were from the Richmond area.
“The intent of civil demonstrations in our city has become undermined by extremist groups and are at times being organized from outside of the Richmond region,” Stoney wrote.
In June, Stoney blamed “outside agitators” for the violence in Richmond. Storefronts were smashed, dumpsters burned and the headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy set on fire.
These actions led to RPD headquarters forming a barricade of concrete silos, Humvee and dump trucks around the building’s perimeter.
On Sunday night before protests began, police occupied Monroe Park, a common gathering place over the past 60 days. Officers threatened to arrest anyone walking around the public park. Chief Gerald Smith referred to the approach as “proactive measures.”
Protesters continued to gather without incident into the week. The most recent incident involving police was Thursday morning, when Richmond officers cleared the area around the Robert E. Lee monument.
Videos shared on social media showed police officers using a stun gun on one individual. RPD said in a statement Thursday that when officers removed “illegal items,” they were assaulted.
Stoney also added that there is a “likelihood” that Monument Avenue could attract counterprotesters and white supremacists from outside the region, who may be violent.
“Public safety has also been made tenser by the continued use of divisive language, messaging, and tactics by the U.S. President,” Stoney said.