A Charlottesville resident jogging across the crosswalk at the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Brown Boulevard was struck by an oncoming car Friday between 4:52 p.m. and 4:59 p.m. At the time of the incident, the organization BLM 757 was leading a protest at the intersection. The pedestrian hit by the car was not involved with the ongoing protest within the intersection.
BLM 757 President Aubrey Dwight “JaPharri” Jones, Jr. traveled from the eastern shore of Virginia to Charlottesville at 2:30 p.m. to march down Main Street to draw attention to the killing of Xzavier Hill and the injuring of Ty Gregory.
Xzavier Hill was pulled over on I-64 while driving home to Charlottesville on Jan. 9. Following a high-speed chase, Hill was told to exit his vehicle and was subsequently shot and killed by Virginia State Police. Despite the police’s allegation that Hill was holding a gun when emerging from the vehicle, Hill’s mother Latoya Benton said that Hill was not holding a firearm after she was allowed to view dashcam footage of the incident. The dashcam footage was released to the public following the protest. A grand jury ruled Friday that the actions of the state police were justified.
U.Va. Beyond Policing — a student group dedicated to holding police accountable and envisioning a world without police — organized a march Feb. 9 that students and community members participated in. The march started on McCormick Road and ended on the steps of Rotunda, where community members, including Benton, spoke.
On Jan. 20, the Skyline Drug Task Force and the U.S. Marshals Service attempted to stop Ty Quane Pertell Gregory of Charlottesville at an apartment complex in Waynesboro. Gregory allegedly left the scene in a minivan after hitting a police vehicle, and at an intersection, Gregory’s van was hit by another vehicle. Gregory was then transported to U.Va. Medical Center and treated for injuries sustained in the crash, ultimately losing his eye from the incident.
The BLM 757 protest included family members and friends of both Hill and Gregory. The march began at the Pizza Hut on Main Street and moved down Main Street to the Downtown Mall and back, stopping at Heather Heyer Way. Heyer was a Charlottesville community member who was murdered by white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. at the Unite the Right Rallies of August 2017.
The group arrived at the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Brown Boulevard between 4:52 p.m. and 4:59 p.m. and proceeded to march and chant within the intersection, effectively blocking oncoming traffic.
Camile Sabisky, a second-year College student who watched the protest from her apartment balcony, said that she perceived the group as peaceful.
“A group of around 20 protestors assembled in the intersection, stopping traffic while some cars attempted to edge around the protestors,” Sabisky said. “However, I did not see the protestors engage in behavior that could be deemed aggressive toward oncoming cars or drivers.”
Between 4:52 p.m. and 4:59 p.m., BLM 757 footage shows an unidentified truck run a red light headed north on Roosevelt Brown Boulevard. As the truck crossed the intersection, the front left portion struck a pedestrian jogging across the crosswalk.
According to Brian Wheeler, director of communications for the Charlottesville Police Department, the pedestrian was uninvolved with the protest and was brought to U.Va. Medical Center to be treated for minor injuries.
Charlottesville Police Chief Rashall Brackney also gave a statement condemning the behavior of the BLM 757 protestors Friday, echoing Wheeler’s statement that the protestors’ actions, which included stepping in front of moving vehicles, were “reckless and dangerous.”
“We have wholeheartedly supported the numerous rallies, marches and demonstrations occurring throughout the City of Charlottesville after the death of George Floyd,” Brackney said. “However, the behaviors exhibited today do not unify the community or keep the community safe.”
Zyahna Bryant, an activist and second-year College student, followed the protest, boosted community awareness of the accident and shared a thread of reflections regarding the incident on Twitter.
“I have many thoughts about yesterday, but one being there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to organizing demonstrations,” Bryant wrote. “That is exactly why it’s so dangerous to come into a city that isn’t your own and try to plan a protest on a whim.”
The Charlottesville Police Department is now investigating the incident in conjunction with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.