HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Dozens of people marched for unity Monday in multiple Hampton Roads cities.
Members of BlackLivesMatter757 told 10 On Your Side that this was not their event, but that they are transferring energy into an organization called “IAmTheChangeTODAY.” On Facebook, the event was called “#ShutDown757 Unity March.”
Organizers said they were affected by the death of Philando Castile — an African-American man killed by a Minnesota police officer last year during a traffic stop. But Monday’s marches were focused specifically on the Hampton Roads community.
The planned marches began at 7:57 p.m. on Mercury Boulevard in Hampton, Jefferson Avenue in Newport News, Granby Street in Norfolk, the Oceanfront in Virginia Beach and High Street in Portsmouth.
Protesters in Portsmouth closed several ramps to and from Interstate 264 near Effingham and Court Streets. The closures were brief and each on and off-ramp has since reopened.
Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman released a statement, which said in part, “Tonight’s events could have run more smoothly if protesters had communicated more openly with the Portsmouth Police Department. In the end, the protest in Portsmouth ended peacefully and the protesters were able to openly express their concerns through the guarantees afforded to all citizens.”
A news release from the Coalition of Black Americans said, “…we have grave concerns about the level of force, tactics and miscommunication regarding tonight’s events.”
In Norfolk, WAVY’s Matt Gregory spotted several people peacefully marching down Granby Street. They chanted “Black Lives Matter” and held posters and cardboard signs. Police on bikes and in cruisers were seen escorting the group.
“I think that across the country, black lives are undervalued,” one woman marching in Norfolk said.
The gathering in Norfolk had wrapped up by 9 p.m.
Several dozen people gathered in Newport News, blocking lanes on Jefferson Avenue. Police officers could be seen following behind the group and directing traffic. The organizer at the event told 10 On Your Side’s Liz Kilmer that their message was one of peace.
“It’s an important issue and I wish more people could be out here tonight,” said Allison Black.
The march remained peaceful with no issues.
One woman stood at the outskirts of the march in Newport News, holding a sign that said, “Go away cop killers.” She said that she attended to support police officers.
“When you separate yourself — that’s not unity,” Misty Collins said. “What are you doing? You’re going to block traffic and say ‘We matter?'”
Officials in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton and Newport News said no one applied for a permit for the marches.
A march organizer said they spoke with members of law enforcement in some of the cities. Police across Hampton Roads told 10 On Your Side before the marches that they are aware and prepared for the event.
Hampton police said Tuesday morning an event organizer was issued a summons for obstruction of free passage of others. Police said protesters were cooperative with officers and remained on the sidewalk during the march.
Monday’s marches mark one year since supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement held demonstrations in several cities and gathered on Interstate 264 at the Downtown Tunnel, blocking all traffic. Several Virginia State Police troopers could be seen set up near the tunnel on Monday from the WAVY-TV 10 station in Portsmouth.