Protesters in Richmond, Virginia “intentionally” set fire to a home with a child inside and then impeded firefighters from responding to the scene, according to Richmond Police Chief Will Smith.
The child survived, and all those within the building were able to evacuate the house safely. However, Smith was visibly shaken, holding back tears as he described the scene at a press conference on Sunday.
“Last night, protesters intentionally set a fire to an occupied building on Broad Street. This is not the only occupied building that has been set fire to over the last two days, but they prohibited us from getting on scene,” Smith told reporters Sunday. “We had to force our way to make a clear path for the fire department. Protesters intercepted the fire apparatus several blocks away with vehicles and blocked the fire department’s access to the structure fire. Inside that home was a child.”
Peaceful protests have unraveled into nightly riots all across the country following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while in police custody when a white police officer used his knee to pin him to the ground, resulting in death by asphyxiation.
Protesters have been rioting in Richmond since Friday. Smith placed most of the blame for the riots on “bad actors” looking to fan the flames of violence across the United States.
“When you take a legitimate issue and hijack it for unknown reasons, that is unacceptable to me; it’s unacceptable to the Richmond Police Department, unacceptable to the city of Richmond,” the police chief said.
“We have people from across the country who have traveled many states to be here,” he said.
“We know that this is an organized effort. We’re committed to try and identify those that are behind it. And we’re doing our very level best to arrest those that are perpetrating the violence on our community, and our city, and our citizens.”
Original: JPost – Zachary Keyser contributed to this report.