On Monday, thirteen Black Lives Matter protesters were sentenced to five days in jail for blocking traffic on an interstate highway in Richmond, Virginia, during a July protest.
All thirteen pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement. The judge seemed fairly lenient; while some were immediately escorted to jail, others will not have to begin their sentence until December. One of the protestors’ sentence was delayed in order to let her complete a college exam.
The prosecutor, Richmond Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Davis Powell, seemed pleased with the sentencing.
“It was rush hour. They put themselves in danger, and they put other people potentially in danger,” he said. “[S]o we thought that five days in jail was an appropriate punishment.”
The 13 demonstrators were convicted of obstructing the free passage of others. If they had not taken the plea, they could've faced up to a year in jail plus a $2,500 fine.
Powell later added that the protestors’ behavior was “rather irresponsible,” pointing out that while everyone has the right to peacefully protest, this surely wasn't it. “Stopping rush-hour traffic is an entirely different thing...We thought that warranted punishment.”
The protest began around 6 p.m. on July 18. By 6:20 p.m., Richmond police had arrived and warned the protesters - twice - to move their demonstration from the highway to the grass. Many refused and were arrested.
On November 9, 12 more protesters were arrested for sitting in the middle of an expressway and blocking traffic. The demonstrators were protesting President-elect Donald Trump. A trial date has not yet been set.