VB Oceanfront protest organizer says he was trying to get people to leave when police began to release tear gas

Virginia Beach

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — The organizer of the Black Lives Matter protest Sunday night at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront says decisions by police and other outside influencers led to what resulted in a destructive night.

Aubrey ‘Japharii’ Jones, 35, who identifies himself as the president of Black Lives Matter 757, spoke from Fort Monroe in Hampton Monday, saying things did not end how he had hoped.

The protest remained peaceful for the majority of the night, with chants of “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter.” Black Lives Matter 757 started at 7:57 p.m. at Rudee Loop and 1st Street. People of all races united and marched for more than two dozen blocks.

But shortly before 10 p.m. tensions began to rise when hundreds of protesters began to surround a police cruiser that was blocking traffic at 5th Street and Pacific Avenue.

“The police car for some reason or another pretty much ran and drove and moved through the crowd and actually hit a pregnant lady,” Jones said. “From that point emotions ran a little high.”

It was following that point that businesses started to be vandalized by groups that appeared to have broken off from the main protest.

The group Jones was with continued back to 16th and Atlantic Avenue, where the Virginia Beach Police Department met them with riot gear.

There, several officers kneeled in solidarity.

“I even asked for the megaphone so I could announce to the large crowd ‘Hey, we are going to be taking a knee. If not for nine seconds, nine minutes, and then we are going to go ahead and head out,'” Jones said. During this time as we are coordinating this with Virginia Beach Police. All [of] a sudden we see a SWAT attire coming with an intent to flank us, and that got emotions of everybody riled up because we felt as if we were being hoodwinked.” 

In a press conference on Monday afternoon, Acting Police Chief Tony Zucaro said some members of the crowd starting throwing projectiles at officers and breaking windows of storefronts.

Organizers say it was evident outside troublemakers infiltrated what they were trying to do.

Jones could be seen on the Facebook Live telling protesters to go home.

“We are not here to just break this down, we are not here to loot. A lot of the people doing the damages, they were white people, not black people,” said Jackie Horton, who helps lead Black Lives Matter 757. “If people cared as much about black lives as much as those businesses, we wouldn’t be here.”

Black Lives Matter 757 said they are working on a plan to help some of the nearly 50 businesses that were damaged.

“We would attempt to [help] if there are any struggling businesses that would maybe need some assistance. We are putting together some formulation. We don’t appreciate what is going on but we do have some compassion as well,” Jones said.

Black Lives Matter 757 is asking for a meeting with the police chiefs of all seven cities of Hampton Roads to talk about how to move forward with establishing a citizen review board that would work to better hold officers accountable.

They also say they want to see how police officer candidates with complaints in other departments are vetted.

The group said they planned to continue to protest.

“It was not pretty at the Oceanfront, it was really bad,” Horton said. “However, I’d do it over again because there will be no peace until there is justice.”

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