New Virginia Majority stands in solidarity with Virginia Student Power Network (VSPN) with the lawsuit filed today on their behalf against the City of Richmond, the Richmond Police Department (RPD), and the Virginia Department of State Police (VSP) for violating their constitutional right to free speech and assembly.
Over the past few weeks, there has been an escalation of police violence against protestors, which speaks to the pattern of over policing in communities across Virginia. Marcus David Peters, a Black Richmond resident in a mental health crisis, was shot in 2018 by a Richmond police officer, and this is only one example of the unchecked police brutality that exists in this city and country. “A boiling point has been reached, and people from all walks of life are starting to demand an immediate stop to police violence and real policy solutions from our leaders,” stated Tram Nguyen, NVM co-executive director. “As a lifelong Richmonder, I’m heartened to see that young Black people are leading the way, and using their voices to protest violence and senseless killings. We should follow their lead.”
Members of VSPN and a group of college students and community members were exercising their right to protest on June 22-June 23 when the RPD and VSP used excessive force against them, and fired tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and flash grenades into the crowd. These tactics are meant to silence protestors against using their voice against racial injustice, racial inequities and police brutality.
VSPN is asking for a declaration from the court that RPD and VSP have operated unlawfully, and an order to prohibit them from engaging in activities that violate protesters’ constitutional rights. Along with the complaint, a request was filed for an immediate order to stop these violations.
We strongly support this lawsuit, and are hopeful that the court will uphold the right to participate in lawful assembly so that all Virginians will feel safe to vocalize their beliefs.