All posts by Julie Rothey

In Today’s News

Siren alert system under repair

The VCU siren system is under repair after it did not activate during a test on Wednesday. The university stated in a message on their alert web page that they are working with the siren vendor to fix the issue. VCU is in the process of upgrading the system, according to the message.

Creighton Court residents living without heat

The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority said in a letter to Creighton Court residents they will begin restoring heat to 50 apartments next week. Residents without heat were originally given space heaters, then moved to hotels or vacant units.

Marijuana advocates to lobby in Richmond

Advocates for the legalization of marijuana will be in Richmond Sunday and Monday for the Virginia 2018 Cannabis Conference. The conference is organized by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a Washington based nonprofit.

Senate has until midnight to prevent government shutdown

The senate is divided over a short-term spending bill that would prevent a government shutdown at midnight Friday night. The bill passed the House Thursday night, but senate democrats say they will not support the bill because it does not reflects their views on immigration and government spending.

Open forum addresses concerns about D.C. to Richmond high speed rail

Picture from: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/urban/richmond-va.htm

An open forum hosted by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transport helped assuage the fears local activists and community members. In its current proposal, the DRPT and the Federal Railroad Administration are considering creating two stations in Richmond for its rail from Richmond to D.C., one at Main Street Station in Shockoe Bottom and another around Broad and Boulevard in Scott’s Addition.

Whenever construction is talked about in Shockoe, local activists are concerned about the effect it could have on historical sites, such as the site of Gabriel Prosser’s execution and the Lumpkin’s Jail site. Indeed, many of the speakers expressed a preference for the Broad/Boulevard location over that of Main Street Station.

A longtime advocate for the Shockoe Memorial Park and a representative for the Defenders of Freedom, Justice and Equality, Ana Edwards spoke on the issue of building in an area so rich with history.

“There is consideration that there’s been a longstanding campaign for Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park,” Edwards said of DRPT’s efforts. “Our concern when we heard there was going to be a high speed rail coming into the city and into Shockoe was the impact it would have on what we wanted to see.”

The current two station proposal would see the area of expansion into burial grounds minimized, but would create the need for parking decks, another issue for some speakers such as Richmond resident Luca.

“I spoke with Claire during the open house and she explained to me that one of the changes would be a three story parking garage on a lot that’s slated for the proposed memorial park,” said Luca. “I guess I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact there’s all these folks here advocating for this park and a parking garage is even being considered.”

Former VCU president Eugene Trani joined those advocating for the Scott’s Addition location as the sole station, but kept his reasoning more economic.

“I’m 77 years-old so I’m not going to be here to see what happens, but I think there should be one station in the Richmond metropolitan area and it should be on Boulevard,” Trani said. “The area already has plenty of space and entertainment, and I believe just announcing the station would help the area develop faster.”

Though they did not speak during the forum, yielding the floor in its entirety to members of the public, a representative for DRPT did say they are planning to avoid all historical and archaeological sites, of which Shockoe has many.

Those unable to make it to the forum still have the option to provide comment by November 8th via an electronic form. http://www.dc2rvarail.com/contact-us

Cary St. Gym evacuated due to pool fumes

By Alan Booth and Julie Rothey

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Cary St. Gym was evacuated this morning due to potentially hazardous fumes in the pool area around 10 a.m. Cary Street was closed between Harrison Street and Cherry Street.

Richmond Fire Department responded to the alarm, and gave the all-clear at 11:30 a.m. The gym and pool are both now open. The pool is safe to use.

The alarm was triggered by a VCU Rec Sports employee when a combination of residual chemicals and chlorine added to the system two days ago produced an unknown odor. Deputy Fire Marshal Earl Dyer confirmed that the chemicals never posed a risk to students using the pool.

VCU Senior Merin Duke was using the pool at the time of the alarm. Duke was ushered by lifeguards out of the gym. Later, once staff was alerted that the alarm was not a drill, students were moved across the street.

“All of my books for today, my wallet, my keys, and my phone, and my clothes are all in the gym,” Duke said while waiting for the building to reopen. Lifeguards provided her and the other students in bathing suits with robes.

Duke said evacuees were given frequent updates, and were told there were chemicals in the pool that could potentially cause an explosion. While rare, pool chemical explosions can occur when chemicals are mixed or added improperly.

The Richmond Fire Department’s HazMat team entered the building around 11:20 to assess the situation. The team used only their personal protective equipment and breathing apparatuses, instead of their full chemical entry suits.

Dyer stated that after testing, the HazMat team concluded the odor was caused by the interaction of chlorine added two days ago with residual chemicals in the filtration system’s pipes. The pool’s chemical balance is managed by head lifeguards using an array of pre-mixed chemicals to correct pH and chlorine levels.

The Fire Department gave the all-clear to re-enter the gym at 11:30. The gym was reopened by VCU just fifteen minutes later, though the pool itself remained closed until 12:30.

Despite the unexpected evacuation, Duke praised the VCU Rec Sports staff for being “very friendly, giving [students] frequent updates, as much information as they could,” and thought that “they did an A+ job.”

 

Confederate rally draws counter-protesters, not many Confederates

Story by Tyler Hammel

Picture by Julie Rothey

Titled like a bad straight to video sequel no one asked for, CSA II: The New Confederate States of America descended upon Richmond for a “Heritage Not Hate” rally.  

The group, best known for selling neo-Confederate merchandise on the internet, did not bring numbers. By 10 a.m. the less than 10 neo-Confederates were handily outnumbered by a few hundred counter-protesters representing a swath of beliefs and groups.

A march for love and not hate was organized by the Richmond Peace Education Centre, and hundreds of people gathered at the Maggie L. Walker memorial to listen to various speakers before heading down to the Lee monument.

 

Picture by Julie Rothey

Among the counter-protesters were members of the First Unitarian Universalist Church who felt more inspired to march after the events in Charlottesville.

“White silence is enabling. By being here we’re hoping to effect a change,” said on the church members. “Charlottesville did the opposite of deterring us, it made us more conscious.”

After walking to the Lee monument and encountering the few members of CSA II around 10:30 the crowd of counter-protesters grew. Cries of “Heritage not hate,” were drowned out by counter cries telling the flaggers to get a better hobby.

 

Picture by Julie Rothey

A CSA II member tried to talk to the crowd, yelling that he didn’t see any American flags.

“I’ve got mine right here,” said one man in the crowd pointing to his socks. “That monument stands for oppression, how do you think oppressed people feel having to walk by that every day?”

Surrounded by police with their backs to the gated off monument, members of CSA II left after less than two hours.

A few pro-statue folks remained, one woman in a Confederate flag t-shirt compared being from the South to being a minority.

“Being from the South is a crime, I can’t even wave my flag. Land of the free my a--,” she said. “Everyone already has their opinion, they don’t care about mine.”

A few separate neo-Confederate groups showed up throughout the day only to be met with a perpetually large crowd of counter-protesters. Eventually protesters began dispersing from the monument to parade through the Fan. The police removed the precautions set up in the wake of Charlottesville, including riot gear, gating around the monument and surrounding homes, and trucks from Public Works blocking Monument Avenue.

Though leaving their own protest before noon, CSA II hit more troubles on their way out, springing a flat they claim was caused by a slashed tire. A GoFundMe page set up by the group to help them leave has since been removed. The group posted on their Facebook page Saturday night that they had been “extracted safely.”