A second night of unrest hit Virginia yesterday, amid a continuing backlash against President Donald Trump’s use of armed federal agents to crack down on demonstrators in Portland. Fires burned in Virginia’s capital city Richmond, as windows were smashed and 16 arrests were made, according to police, who branded the scenes ‘riots’. Pictures showed protesters carrying guns walking down the streets at night while fires burned nearby. Last night’s protests followed demonstrations on Saturday that had been billed by some as support for protesters on the other side of the country in Portland, Oregon. That city is experiencing ongoing tensions between protesters and armed US agents at the federal courthouse, with Mr Trump calling in special agents in a heavily criticised show of force against anti-racism demonstrations. Earlier today, agents repeatedly fired what appeared to be tear gas, stun grenades and pepper balls at protesters outside the courthouse in central Portland. It came as the mayors of six other US cities appealed to Congress to make it illegal for the federal government to deploy militarised federal agents to cities that do not want them – branding it an ‘egregious use of federal force ‘. Back in Richmond, Police Chief Gerald Smith claimed his department saw a flyer calling for demonstrations on Sunday that carried the same tone of ‘intimidation’ and ‘wanting to produce fear’ that flyers for Saturday night’s protests had contained. Mr Smith said Sunday night’s damage included three fires as well as smashed windows, including one at the police department for Virginia Commonwealth University. The chief said that the ages of those arrested ranged from 17 to 45. Charges included trespassing, riot with a dangerous weapon and transport of a loaded rifle within city limits.
He said: ‘The city of Richmond is open and welcomes those who would like to come here in expression of their First Amendment rights. ‘However, we have to take action when we know that violence is coming.’ Mr Smith said police took a ‘proactive’ stance and began making arrests in Monroe Park after 10pm. The chief said his department is working on identifying groups affiliated with Sunday’s demonstrations. Some individuals from Saturday night have been identified as being from both left-wing and right-wing movements, he said.
On Saturday night, Virginia State Police and Richmond police said they worked to clear a crowd of several hundred demonstrators who had ripped down police tape and moved forward with lasers and firecrackers. Six men among the protesters were arrested that night and face various charges, including unlawful assembly, rioting with a firearm and assault on a law enforcement officer. Protesters had been planning Saturday’s demonstration for days. It was called ‘Richmond Stands with Portland’, news outlets reported. Weeks of nationwide unrest have struck several US cities since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, which sparked a global backlash against racism and police brutality.