Officers hurt, businesses destroyed as protests turn violent in Lynchburg

Originally peaceful protests turned violent

View from the intersection of Fifth and Jackson streets, looking toward Polk Street at the police line at 1:48 a.m. on June 1, 2020. (WSLS 10)

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Several officers are hurt and two people were arrested after peaceful protests turned violent Sunday night into Monday morning in Lynchburg.

Shayne Dwyer WSLS 10 News is still in Lynchburg as authorities work to disperse a crowd. **WARNING: This video may contain profanity**

Posted by WSLS 10 / on Sunday, May 31, 2020

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Demonstrations started Sunday afternoon outside of Fifth and Federal, a Lynchburg restaurant that supported a tweet from Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. that showed a picture of a face mask with the blackface photo from Gov. Northam’s yearbook page on it.

The business has since issued a statement apologizing to anyone who thought they were supporting racism. Rather, they, "stand for freedom from the oppressive government actions of Governor Northam.”

Demonstrations were originally focused on the restaurant’s response to Falwell’s tweet, but then shifted to George Floyd and the treatment of African Americans.

Later on, protests became violent. Protesters were seen throwing rocks into Adams Motor Company and destroying property. The police department says protesters damaged property along 5th Street, including police cars and an ABC store near the intersection of 12th and Church.

*WARNING: The video below may contain profanity*

Fifth and federal protest

Posted by Justin Saulsbury on Sunday, May 31, 2020

Protesters returned to the restaurant, Fifth and Federal, which was being guarded by a group of around 40 armed citizens acting as volunteer private security.

“Everybody was just taking cover, some of them came really close to the building and we had to position our firearms and say hey look don’t come in here, if you were threatening, and you know they backed off," said Peter Alexander, one of the citizens acting as volunteer security.

According to several reports on social media, scanner audio and our crews on the ground, officers responded to reports of shots fired at Fifth and Federal. Authorities say a police car also has several bullet holes in it.

Below is a transcription of the scanner audio embedded above:

  • 5:43: “I think we have shots fired. One shot fired. We have people running currently.”
  • 6:40: “We’ve got shots fired again at 5th and federal”
  • 16:09: “Unless you’re engaged with something I need you to fall back to fourth and federal”
  • 17:46: “If you can’t fall back to a safe position then use it to defend yourself but otherwise see if you guys can continue to fall back”
  • 18:00: “I don’t want you guys engaging the crowd until we have enough resources on the scene”
  • 23:32: “Vehicle 61 is being vandalized and there is a rifle in it”
  • 24:26: “I need you guys code 3 to respond to unit 61 at 5th and Jackson we have multiple shots fired and a police vehicle being vandalized it has a rifle in it”
  • 25:34: “We’ve got vehicle 69 the windows broke out”

Once officers arrived at the scene, police say protesters started throwing rocks and assaulting officers. Several officers were injured and one was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Authorities say the crowd in front of Fifth and Federal was told to disperse several times, and officers “deployed a chemical agent” when people refused to leave the area.

Shayne Dwyer WSLS 10 News is in Lynchburg as police are engaging with demonstrators who have turned violent. **WARNING: This video may contain profanity**

Posted by WSLS 10 / on Sunday, May 31, 2020

Below is a portion of a statement sent out by the Lynchburg Police Department:

“The LPD respects the right to peacefully protest. When those protests turn violent and threaten the safety of our community, we must take action, as we did tonight. Failing to take action would threaten the safety of the peaceful protesters, the uninvolved public, and our officers.”

Carrie Dungan, Community Relations Coordinator, answered questions early Sunday morning. Click here to hear her response.

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