NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Demonstrators in Norfolk held a sit-in at City Hall on Monday to call for action from Norfolk Police Department and council members.
Organizers told WAVY.com they planned to camp out for as long as it takes to ask for increased accountability and transparency of Norfolk police.
About 50 people planned to gather on the grassy area starting 7 p.m. Around 7:15 p.m., WAVY’s Geena Arevalo reported several dozen people — at least — had pitched tents and lawn chairs as part of the sit-in.
“Our goal is to see the use of force records that are not released by the Norfolk Police Department. We believe they should be public information,” said Tyler Woodard, who is helping to organize the sit-in.
The group says it is concerned the Norfolk department refuses to release its “use of force” reports, according to an article from the Virginian-Pilot. State law gives Norfolk police the ability to choose whether to make those records public.
“This is a problem that we’re only seeing because people are videotaping and that’s terrifying,” said demonstrator Karissa Dickerman.
Protest organizer Raymond Brothers explained he believes all abuse of power information should be available.
“We’re not asking for addresses or any personal information. We as a community are asking who are the police officers [or] which police officers, or multiple police officers, have a use of force problem. Use of force shouldn’t be used every single day by the police.”
Victims of police brutality shared their experience. For others in the crowd, the sit-in is personal.
“They blocked me in in my truck, guns drawn,” said demonstrator Barrett Hicks.
Hicks said he experienced excessive use of force by Norfolk Police last year. Hicks said officers told him he matched a similar description of someone else they were looking for. He told 10 On Your Side he met with the mayor and police chief following the incident.
“I am so happy and feel good to see that others are asking what I’ve been asking since September of 2019,” Hicks said.
The sit-in is different than the marches he’s planned in the past. The group will not block the roads or sidewalks, rather engage in dialogue.
Raymond Brothers said he wants council members to join them.
“Our main goal is to address the city councilmen, women and the vice mayor on why they haven’t even mentioned or made a statement about these reports.”
Some in the crowd say city leaders should be taking charge.
“I believe that the city council should take the lead and say ‘well this doesn’t seem right,’” said demonstrator Robert Williams.
Raymond notes this event is not in connection to the Black Lives Matter 757 group.
In May, Chief Larry Boone marched and answered questions from protesters. Since then, Boone tells 10 On Your Side a part of the challenge for police departments moving forward will be trying to encourage the good officers and weed out the bad officers. Boone adds he asks his officers to rely on their training and do the right thing.
“At some point, I would like to release those records,” Boone said.
Boone tells 10 On Your Side that many departments don’t release records. He isn’t opposed to releasing use of force documents, though he wants to make sure there is a proper process in place.
“Those records should not just be arbitrarily thrown out for public consumption,” Boone said. “With transparency there is accountability, and with accountability there should be a process.”
Boone said his department is exploring ways to make the process right, which could include having an outside party decide what should be released.
“We are at a point now — and when I say ‘we’ the profession itself — we are at a point now where we have to be as transparent as we possibly can.”
Boone even stopped by the sit-in on Monday night to speak with protesters and officers were there Tuesday morning.
“There is no agenda,” Woodard said. “We don’t think they are covering up something, but we can’t know anything until records are released.”
Woodard said this protest could become an “occupy” situation where they stay there for days or weeks.
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