A peaceful protest with roughly 500 people was held at Monday evening at Virginia Gateway. Police reported that the crowd required officers to divert traffic for several hours as the crowd moved around the area.
Protest events Monday in Northern Virginia were part of an ongoing response to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last week.
At the earlier protest in Gainesville, Charles Clements said he is concerned about his two adult sons and his baby grandson.
“I’m really concerned about their place in the world and in this country,” Clements said.
His wife, Lisa Clements, said the video of George Floyd’s killing was shocking.
“We actually saw another human being murdered in front of our eyes, George Floyd,” she said. “This has really shattered me to my core, to actually have seen this.”
She said she saw a neighbor post online that Black Lives Matter protesters were thugs – a term President Donald Trump has called those protesting after George Floyd’s killing.
“That’s another reason why I’m here,” she said. “People will say it was unlawful and dangerous, I’ll be able to say ‘No, I was there and you weren’t.’”
Dale City resident Brandyn Munford held a sign he made for the protest: “Day 80: Breonna Taylor’s murderers are not in jail! #sayhername.”
Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by law enforcement in her home March 13.
“She wasn’t doing anything but sleeping,” Munford said.
Manassas resident Gimara Richards said she wants justice and equality for all people. She said the video of Floyd's death was disturbing because the police officers did not help Floyd as he struggle to breath.
"I think we're fed up," she said. A teacher at Freedom High School, Richards said she attended the protest Monday to support her son and her students.
Rev. Cozy Bailey, president of the Prince William Chapter of the NAACP, told the crowd of protestors that this is showing the best of the county.
“This is a beautiful site,” he said.
A protest briefly blocked traffic on Interstate 66 in the Fairfax area shortly after 5 p.m., reported Dave Dildine with WTOP.
'Planning for the worst and hoping for the best'
In Manassas, 200-300 protesters were at the Prince William County Courthouse, leading police to ask residents to avoid the area.
At 5:09 p.m., police reported roads in Old Town Manassas would be closed as protesters moved through around the courthouse area. By 6:30, police reported that only small groups remained from the protest and it had remained peaceful throughout its entirety.
Earlier, protesters at the courthouse held signs and chanting among other slogans “Black lives matter,” “No justice, no peace,” the afternoon demonstration remained peaceful despite a few tense moments between protest leaders and the Prince William County Sheriff's Office deputies.
In the middle of the demonstration at the courthouse, protesters presented Prince William County Sheriff Glen Hill with a pledge to sign that if, at any point, his officers shot an unarmed black man, he would step down. After a long back-and-forth, Hill declined to do so as his officers maintained a perimeter around the courthouse.
Niki Wilson, a 21-year-old from Manassas, said she was there to peacefully demand change, but saw that some in the crowd wanted to take a more confrontational approach.
“That’s not why I’m out here. I’m out here because I know there’s cops here and all over that abuse their power. Just because you saw one, there’s a lot more, and we need to change that,” Wilson told InsideNoVa. “Some people out here say they want to fight. I want to fight but with my voice. Nothing good going to come from destroying things.”
At times, various speakers alternated between a message of peace and a message of broader defiance. As some tried to engage Hill in a conversation while holding firm in their demand that he sign the pledge, others said they shouldn’t be trying to work with law enforcement at all.
At the Manassas City Council meeting Monday night, Police Chief Douglas Keen told the council that he wouldn’t be signing any documents.
“None of us are going to sign a blank statement like that,” Keen said. “I will be glad to stand before your crowd and have a conversation to answer the questions you have. [There was] no desire to have a conversation. There is a group in the crowd that’s trying to antagonize the rest of them. We are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.”
Keen did not recommend that Manassas institute a curfew, though he said that may change tomorrow. On Sunday night, after a long and peaceful demonstration, there was a confrontation between Manasssas police officers and a smaller group of demonstrators.
Glory Days Grill sustained some property damage and the state police were called in to protect the Manassas police station. There was also some looting at a nearby Walmart, but Keen said his officers did not deploy any tear gas or rubber bullets, and ultimately the demonstration cleared relatively peacefully. Four arrests were made at the Walmart by Prince William County police.
“Our tactics were holding the line, we’re not going to deploy any gas or munitions because that’s what they’re looking for to justify more violence,” Keen told the council “They got tired of us and bored and began to disperse … All of us in law enforcement went home uninjured. No arrests, no protesters hurt or touched by us.”