Protesters pepper-sprayed during clashes with Virginia police over Confederate statues

Virginia police officers purportedly pepper-sprayed protesters late Sunday following another night of unrest in Richmond over the removal of Confederate statues.

Photos obtained by news outlets showed a line of police in riot gear blocking the statue of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart on the city's iconic Monument Avenue.

A cone was placed on top of Stuart's head along with several ropes tied around the base of the statue.

WHAT HAPPENS TO CONFEDERATE STATUES AFTER THEY'RE REMOVED? 

Traffic cones and a rope remain on the statue of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart the morning after protesters against racial inequality attempted to topple it in Richmond, Virginia, U.S., June 22, 2020. 

Traffic cones and a rope remain on the statue of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart the morning after protesters against racial inequality attempted to topple it in Richmond, Virginia, U.S., June 22, 2020.  (Reuters)

Police began pushing back against the crowd in a standoff that began after the alleged attempt to pull down Stuart's monument. Stuart, who was born and buried in Virginia, became a Confederate States Army general during the Civil War.

Richmond police eventually declared the gathering place around his monument unlawful and ordered protesters to leave.

On Friday, Richmond's new interim Police Chief William "Jody" Blackwell said that while officers will respect people's First Amendment rights, the department has the authority to declare protests that have become violent, dangerous or disruptive as unlawful assemblies and that Virginia law gives them the authority to arrest protesters refusing to disperse.

"The danger of personal injury and ongoing willful and wanton property damage cannot be tolerated," the Richmond Police Department said in a statement.

Richmond City Council members Stephanie Lynch and Michael Jones tweeted that they would be asking for the immediate removal of the Confederate monuments.

"For public safety reasons, (among all other reasons we support taking down the Confederate Monuments) @thedrmikejones and I are calling for their immediate removal as other cities across the nation have done."

The council will hold an emergency meeting later Monday where Mayor Levar Stoney will discuss the task force he created last week in response to the violence breaking out in Richmond.

Multiple Confederate monuments in the city, once the capital of the Confederacy, have been rallying points and sites of confrontations with police in the weeks since George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody.

Stuart's statue and several others on Monument Avenue have been the target of protesters who claim they glorify the South's history of racism and argue they should be taken down.

VIRGINIA'S PUSH TO REMOVE CONFEDERATE STATUES LEAVES SOME LONGTIME RESIDENTS IN MORAL LIMBO

Statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham, as well as Christopher Columbus, have been toppled.

Last week, state workers in Richmond erected concrete barriers around the 130-year-old statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, as the legal fight over its removal plays out in court.

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Unlike the other statues on tree-lined Monument Avenue, which belong to the city, Lee's is on state property.

On Thursday, an injunction blocking Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam from removing the 21-foot-tall statue was indefinitely extended by Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley Cavedo, who said the legal effort to stop the removal was flawed and gave the plaintiffs in the high-profile case three weeks to rework their lawsuit.