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13 arrested during VCU protest, officers used pepper spray

Brad Kutner
Radio IQ
Police officers in gas masks monitor demonstrators while crews dismantle tents and other items left by protesters.

Virginia Commonwealth University said 13 people were arrested as police dispersed a pro-Palestinian protest Monday night. Six are VCU students, according to a statement released late Tuesday morning.

The statement said university administrators repeatedly asked protesters to remove tents and encampment structures from the area outside of Cabell Library, noting that such structures violated school policies. After the tents and structures went up, police issued four mass warnings to leave the area.

Police say when they began to move protesters from the area, some protesters threw objects and directed chemical spray at officers. Officers responded with pepper spray, but did not use other chemical irritants like tear gas.

The 13 people arrested are charged with unlawful assembly and trespassing.

The VCU statement said the school will continue to enforce the policy "that prohibits encampments, including the installation of structures and stockpiling items that could be used to build a structure or aid an encampment."

Earlier Tuesday, VCU President Michael Rao issued a statement, saying the community "cherishes the right to peaceful protest, setting up structures on our campus lawn violated our policy." Rao said staff repeatedly and respectfully asked protesters to comply before police moved in to disperse the gathering.

"It's essential to recognize that the vast majority of events at VCU occur without incident," Rao continued. "It's in this spirit of togetherness that I believe our community will move forward."

Read Rao's complete statement

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.
David Seidel is Radio IQ's News Director.