As previously reported in RVA Mag, local provocateur Goad KC planned a semi-satirical event titled “Yell At The Lee Statue While Drinking Out Of A Container In A Brown Bag” for 2:00 PM on Monday afternoon. “I had to work in the morning and tonight, so this was the perfect time,” he explained at the event, sipping an unidentified beverage inside a brown paper bag.
Goad was clear that the event was tongue-in-cheek but not a joke, and thanked one attendee for carrying a Black Lives Matter sign. “We’re here to yell because this is all we can do right now,” he said, explaining the rationale. “We’d like to address our General Assembly but we can’t. We had a Monument Avenue Commission but we can’t talk to them now either. This is our public forum right now.”
Jonathan Romans, his friend with the Black Lives Matter sign, talked about the importance of standing up to discrimination and noted that America has always been divided. “Our name was Romanski,” he said, talking about his Polish ancestry. “We immigrated here fleeing a tyrannical government and had to change our surname just to find a job. People always find reasons to discriminate.”
Police were aware that they were asked not to come and stayed off to one side, describing the assembly as peaceful and easy to monitor. They weren’t checking the containers in the bags, noting that there was no cause for search without clear signs of drunkenness. Drinks seemed to be almost universally non-alcoholic, with many attendees promoting local spots. “We’re Black Hand Coffee fans,” an attendee who gave her name as Chanelle told me, referring to her dirty chai and an iced coffee that Harley, to her left, carried.
Phrases were mostly G-rated, including “Get off my lawn,” and, “this could be a public park instead,” in between friendly conversations and chit-chat. A VCU student named Alison brought her favorite seltzer, La Croix, which Goad noted was now owned by the same company as Faygo, the preferred beverage of the Juggalos.
Behind the group, one man armed with a handgun and a camcorder expressed anti-semitic views while loudly condemning international banking. Most ignored him, but a few of the attendees teased him by referencing the conspiracy theories of David Icke, the former footballer who claims that aliens covertly run the Earth, in a series of books and speeches that seem to also contain anti-semitic views.
Jenn Michelle Pedini of the Virginia Cannabis Group stopped by to hand out stickers supporting the Democratic party. She supports the party for a range of issues, including decriminalization of marijuana, which she thinks would be likely if Democrats won elections on November 7th.
Jeremy Wright, Director of a group called Christian Young Adults, stopped by to see what was happening. He’s not from Richmond, but works with millennials on different social issues related to faith, and was critical of the statues.
“I wonder why the Mayor backtracked on this,” Wright said, wondering about the expense and the message the statues send. “Is this really something we want to safeguard? The money, the time the police have to spend, is this what we want to support?”
*Photos by David Streever