Headlines from large publications across the country champion Richmond, Virginia and mayor Levar Stoney for removing the statue of Confederate general, Stonewall Jackson on Wednesday. But that isn’t the whole story. As the statue was removed while spectators looked on in awe, Richmond citizens were brutalized outside of John Marshall court by police officers for protesting the eviction of thousands of citizens. The moratorium on evictions expired, which means courts are ready to hear eviction cases.
For context, Richmond held the title for second highest evictions nationwide for 16 years with 11% eviction rates. Currently, nearly 4,000 eviction cases are pending. Compounding this issue is Richmond’s unemployment rate during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly 400,000 Virginians are unemployed, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.
Richmond has a predominantly black demographic, but this continues to change as once historically black neighborhoods, such as Brookland Park, Church Hill, and Jackson Ward are being gentrified. Jackson Ward was named after Jackson Ward Alderman John Mitchell, a former slave, journalist, and civil rights activist. The Jackson Ward neighborhood was once known as a Black Wallstreet, a thriving neighborhood of black Richmond citizens.
Citizens who lived in once affordable housing, are kicked out for various reasons, such as a change in hands of who owns the building, or minor issues used to condemn entire building units where dozens of families live. Families are then left with little recourse for how to proceed, as the price of housing in Richmond and surrounding areas continues to rise. This was the case for residents of Ashton Square apartments, who were told in 2016 to move out in a matter of days, because the owners (KRS Holdings) “believe” the building would be condemned.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, having been exposed for wearing blackface in the past, pushed forth an additional 30 day grace period combined with the CARES Act, a $50 million rent and mortgage aid package.
Many citizens note the irony of Richmond officials appearing to dismantle white supremacy by removing the Confederate statue while evicting predominantly people of color from their homes and neighborhoods, and brutalizing citizens protesting evictions.