In the latest developments in the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests, police in downtown Richmond, VA conducted a raid to remove protesters who had been camped out since Oct. 17.
Officers began evicting the protestors around 1 a.m. Most of the protesters willingly left, however, those who stayed were arrested for trespassing, according to police spokesman Gene Lepley.
Like other protests occurring across the United States, the Richmond protest was inspired by the larger Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York City. Kanawha Plaza, in Richmond's financial district, became home to the city's version of Occupy Wall Street. The site included a library and a volleyball court, according to the Associated Press.
Witnesses say Richmond police surrounded the protests and police vehicles flashed their emergency lights. One officer informed the crowd other were trespassing and told the Occupiers to gather their belongings and leave. A large pile of the protesters belongings were left outside of Kanawha Plaza early Monday as police remained on the streets surrounding it.
Mayor Dwight C. Jones visited the Occupy Wall Street in his city last week. He told the protesters he would arrange a meeting between city officials and Occupy Wall Street representatives to discuss the continuous protest in Kanawha Plaza, which rests in front of the Federal Reserve Bank.
Occupiers were said to be disappointed by the city government's actions.
The mayor said they wanted to talk and we thought that was a positive sign, said Ira Birch, a Virginia Commonwealth University student from Timberville, according to the Associated Press. I think everybody's pretty sad.
This police raid comes at a time when other cities are having skirmishes with protesters across the country. Protesters have already been arrested in cities including Portland, Ore, New York, NY, Oakland, Calif, and Austin, Texas.
There appears to be a trend to attempt to remove the Occupy Wall Street protesters from parks and public spaces. Even Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, sought to remove the protesters from Albany, until the defiant Mayor Jerry Jennings refused to give the order to arrest the Occupiers.
During any large scale demonstration, police officials try to maintain a working relationship with groups and their leaders in order to ensure a peaceful protests. However, because Occupiers have maintained this is a leaderless movement with no real list of demands and there a few representatives for the group, it has been difficult has been difficult for police and protesters to coexist.
However, these raids may not permanently disband the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some protesters in Richmond believe that the police actions are only strengthening the movements.
The feeling today is that this is going to make us stronger, said Birch. I think more people are going to support us now.