Demonstration in Richmond draws hundreds, remains peaceful

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A local public defender commended police Chief Chris Magnus on his efforts to improve relations between police and residents, but says he'll need more than this viral image to bridge the divide.

A demonstration over the deaths of men at the hands of police on Tuesday has drawn about 250 people and is growing along Macdonald Avenue in Richmond, police said.

The demonstration has remained peaceful, according to Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan, partly because organizers included police in the plans.

“I wouldn’t describe it as a protest, it is a demonstration,” Gagan said.

In order to limit disruption to businesses, organizers decided to hold the demonstration between 10:30 a.m. and early afternoon.

They chose those hours to “avoid any types of problems that may arise when demonstrations occur,” Gagan said.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor-Elect Tom Butt and other members of City Council attended. As did Police Chief Chris Magnus, who can be seen in the above photo that was shared on social media. He is standing next to a group of demonstrators holding their hands up, a gesture that has been repeated at protests nationwide following the killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson police Office Darren Wilson. Though an autopsy report refuted the claim that Brown had his hands up before he was shot, the gesture has become a symbol for many protesters.

RPD is known for its community policing efforts aimed at building trust between residents and law enforcement. Crime is significantly down as a result, according to city leaders and community groups.

Deputy Chief Allwyn Brown perhaps offered the best explanation for RPD’s involvement in Tuesday’s demonstration in a Tweet: