LYNCHBURG, Va. – For three consecutive nights, Mackton Saunders successfully led a large crowd, protesting peacefully for inequality, through Lynchburg streets.
"That's the only way to get anybody's attention here is peaceful protest,” Saunders said.
And because of that, the city manager has lifted the mandatory curfew.
Earlier this week, protests turned violent with shots fired calls, damage to businesses and police throwing tear gas toward protesters.
A 10 News crew was caught in the middle of it as tear gas was deployed.
Police said seven people including a 14-year-old boy are facing charges for incidents related to protests on Sunday and Monday night.
“We’re gonna continue to investigate those. Pull over hours and hours of video. We could have additional charges depending on what that evidence shows,” said police chief Ryan Zuidema.
But for those who plan to come in peace this weekend, the chief said, “If we do have situations where some of these bad actors get into the middle of what would otherwise be a very peaceful protest, we encourage those peaceful protesters to separate themselves from them because we don’t want them to become victims of a crime.”
Saunders has more advice for folks who will gather at Miller Park Saturday.
“We’re still in a pandemic. So, we are expecting people to wear their facial masks and realize that the coronavirus is still going on. The pandemic is still alive,” Saunders said.
And staying alive for people of color is the also the message Saunders wants everyone to hear.
“We want change as a black community, for our youth, for our children,” Saunders said.
Chief Zuidema said though he feels comfortable lifting the curfew, it will be a reevaluating decision based on protests Friday night and Saturday afternoon at Miller Park.