Richmond Police Claim White Supremacists Behind BLM Riots

The 'outside agitators' trope strikes again.

NBC 10 News (“Police: Richmond riots instigated by white supremacists disguised as Black Lives Matter“):

Riots in downtown Richmond over the weekend were instigated by white supremacists under the guise of Black Lives Matter, according to law enforcement officials.

Protesters tore down police tape and pushed forward toward Richmond police headquarters, where they set a city dump truck on fire.

Police declared the event an “unlawful assembly” and ordered people to leave, later deploying tear gas.

Six people were arrested. The mayor of Richmond thanked the Black Lives Matter protesters he said tried to stop the white supremacists from spearheading the violence.

“Their mission is simple, not the Richmond we know,” said Mayor Levar Stoney.

CBS 6 News (“Police chief believes Antifa, Boogaloo boys were at Richmond riot“):

The chief of police believes members of Antifa and the Boogaloo boys were part of the hundreds of people who marched to Richmond Police Headquarters Saturday night during a demonstration in support of protesters in Portland, Oregon. That group continued marching leaving a path of destruction that included windows shattered at restaurants, businesses and a Virginia Commonwealth University dorm.

“We have identified some individuals who have been seen with the Boogaloo boys and some Antifa groups around the area,” Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said during a news conference Sunday afternoon. “The majority of those individuals who were there last night were Caucasian.”

Smith also said that he believed some in the crowd were Antifa-influenced.

“And some of the individuals that we encountered were from outside of Richmond, Virginia, and some of the surrounding area,” Smith noted.

Smith said an online flyer for the “Richmond Stands with Portland” demonstration, which had been circulating for days and called for violence, did not originate in Richmond.”

“We know that the origin of the flyer came from outside of Richmond,” Smith said. “There are some people who are still inside some of these organizations that will still give us information. And that’s how we know it came from outside of Richmond.

It’s one thing to claim that organizers who circulated a flyer “came from outside of Richmond;” it’s quite another to claim that they’re Antifa (who, so far as I understand the quasi-movement, isn’t white supremacist) and Boogaloo. Much less that they were disguising themselves as BLM. Absent rather concrete evidence, I’m calling BS.

Mayor Levar Stoney opened his remarks by thanking peaceful protesters with organizations like Black Lives Matter after what he called “24 consecutive days of peaceful protests.” He also thanked the police and fire departments for their response Saturday night.

“You know, here in Richmond our standard for protest is that all groups walk away safe,” Stoney said. “But protesters having expressed their discontent, and the officers having supported that peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. That’s not what happened last night.”

Stoney said the violence “hurt many people in the Richmond community, both through the threatening of lives and the destruction of property. And simply put, that is unacceptable in the City of Richmond. Unacceptable.”

Projectiles like rocks and batteries were thrown at police officers, Stoney said. and bricks were lobbed at firefighters trying to douse a city dump truck that was set ablaze by someone in the crowd.

“That could have led to a very, very deadly event,” Stoney said.

The mayor blamed white supremacists “marching under the banner of Black Lives Matter” for corrupting the peaceful social justice movement.

“We’ve spoken on many occasions about those who’ve chosen a more violent route to express their discontent, and what that does for the overall movement towards social justice,” Stoney said. “Last night that reared its ugly head right here in the City of Richmond… We saw some violent actions, violent protests, spearheaded by white supremacists. And frankly, it was disgusting. Disgusting. As they held plywood shields that read, BLM, these folks toured areas of damage downtown, The Fan, breaking windows, tagging private property with hateful language.”

Stoney said Saturday’s riot aimed to undermine the month of peaceful, community-driven protest in Richmond.

“As I began with, I want to send a thanks to the BLM protesters on the ground who decried the white supremacists once they were identified. I’m thankful to you for drawing the line and sticking up not just for the sanctity of your movement, but also the safety of your fellow Richmonders that you marched alongside as well,” Stoney said. “I’m thankful to the officers who were on duty last night for contending with the change in expectations for them. Change is always hard, but now it is the time for that change — and if you’re on our team, you know that.”

The mayor said vigils and basketball games are “far more common than the mess we saw last night.”

To the extent this is a signal that the police and the broader community is on the side of social justice and a call for that movement to proceed peacefully, I’m all for it. But the “outside agitator” trope* is almost always nonsense.

Interestingly, while its history is typically use by white authorities to delegitimize the protests as inauthentic—and justify the use of aggressive measures to crack down on them—here it’s being deployed by a Black police chief in a majority-black city.

*UPDATE: The trope has been rather widely documented. See, for example:

Obviously, something having been used as a distractor for half a century—if not a couple centuries—doesn’t preclude it being true in this instance. But, absent pretty compelling evidence, that’s the way I’d bet.

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FILED UNDER: Police, Race and Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Antifa…what nonsense.
    No leader, no structure, no membership.
    Trump’s white whale. The domestic equivalent of the Mexican Caravan’s. The latest incarnation of Death Panels…be scared, be very scared.

    10
  2. de stijl says:

    You call bs. You present no evidence it is.

    A recent bi-partisan panel gameplayed out this election. The result was street violence. Reds vs. Brownshirts in 2021 America. Thanks, history: we did not need or want that replayed here.

    9
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Antifa…what nonsense.
    No leader, no structure, no membership.

    Oh no… They have uniforms. So said noted intellectual, Rep. Dan Crenshaw.

    3
  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @de stijl:

    You call bs. You present no evidence it is.

    Directed to whom?
    Who are the Reds and who are the Browns?
    The only time I ever hear about Antifa is when White Supremacists, like Trump, are trying to justify their fascistic actions.

    3
  5. de stijl says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I am so confused. What the fuck is an anarcho-communist fascist?

    Those are three really different factions. This is documented really clearly.

    Stupid people should not make historical references of which they know squat.

    1
  6. de stijl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    To Joyner. The OP. Him calling bullshit on the mayor’s statement on the Richmond riot.

    3
  7. James Joyner says:

    @de stijl: I’ve added an update with links to a diverse array of sources documenting the history of this trope.

    2
  8. de stijl says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I had a negative opinion of Crenshaw before. After seeing that tweet: that was Palin level idiocy.

    An anarchist, a communist, and a fascist walk into a bar.

    There was a three-way melee.

    3
  9. de stijl says:

    @James Joyner:

    Yes. I get it. It is a trope.

    Congrats! You identified a trope.

    Does it apply?

    4
  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: What the fuck is an anarcho-communist fascist?

    Translation: Liberal people of color and their race traitor white enablers.

    5
  11. de stijl says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I had no idea I was an Anarcho-Communist Fascist enabler.

    Knowing is half the battle.

    Is Crenshaw saying antifa is fascist?

    2
  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:
    @de stijl:

    Long ago in a different lifetime, the late Art Buchwald determined that outside agitators, emanate from cave in the Berkshires, much like Tolkien’s Orcs.

    3
  13. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I cannot speak for him, but it appears that Joyner is hand waving away the Richmond riot because “outside agitator” is a trope.

    I really do not get his point.

    6
  14. ImProPer says:

    “It’s one thing to claim that organizers who circulated a flyer “came from outside of Richmond;” it’s quite another to claim that they’re Antifa (who, so far as I understand the quasi-movement, isn’t white supremacist) and Boogaloo. Much less that they were disguising themselves as BLM. Absent rather concrete evidence, I’m calling BS.”

    James, it’s hard to come up with a big picture of what is going on with the protests, and subsequent pockets of violence and crime. I myself am stymied, but share your expressed sentiment.
    Personally my sympathies lie with protesters of police violence, and social injustice, however lacking the branding of their message might be. We are totally in a react now, think later mode. It is as unsurprising as it is unfortunate. Unbridled rage against the establishment, has long been expressed in factions of American academia. This combined with sophisticated sounding rhetoric, has long been a siren song to young students looking to make thier mark on the common culture. It is now firmly embedded in the national dialog, and that of the social justice movement. Couple that with the latest campaign strategy of our current President and here we are now. His missing out on the chance to be a leader at the start of the pandemic, and now the ill-conceived, tough guy “law and order” response to police brutality, has been nothing short of breathtaking. The only good news is that there are finally cracks showing in Trumpism.
    I am currently working in the oilfields, of North Dakota. Removed from the current chaos, and in the heart of Trump territory.
    I’m currently finding it is much easier today, to have somewhat rational discussions with his supporters about the current state of the union, and the Liberty they profess to love. Now if the protesters will only see that their message had won nearly universal support some time ago, maybe the madness can end, and solutions found.

    4
  15. de stijl says:

    I recently discovered a new term – SQW.

    Status Quo Warrior.

    Rejoinder to the pejorative SJW usage.

    7
  16. Sleeping Dog says:

    @de stijl:

    It has been shown time and again that there are no outside agitators. The trope is there because the authorities are looking to blame someone other than the protesters for any violence or looting. They do this to grease the wheels for the eventual discussions of the grievances. This is not to say that some group or individuals aren’t trying the hi-jack the protests for their own agenda, it just means that perpetrators of the looting and violence are from the greater community.

    6
  17. Gustopher says:

    Six people were arrested. The mayor of Richmond thanked the Black Lives Matter protesters he said tried to stop the white supremacists from spearheading the violence.

    Reporting like this frustrates me. Were the six arrested white supremacists? Are these two unrelated things stuck into a single paragraph?

    To the extent this is a signal that the police and the broader community is on the side of social justice and a call for that movement to proceed peacefully, I’m all for it. But the “outside agitator” trope* is almost always nonsense.

    There’s a small collection of crazy-but-useful people out here, posting on Twitter as WANaziWatch or something similar. They track Proud Boys and other Nazi scum, because it’s a few of the same guys who show up everywhere. And yes, they are being seen in our local BLM protests, and were going into the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone when that was a thing, trying to stir up trouble.

    They’ve also identified a white supremacist from Oregon who was violating the terms of his parole by leaving the state to join up with his little Nazi friends for the Seattle protests.

    6
  18. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Growing up in the Deep South during the Sixties, I heard the “outside agitators” trope to the point of nausea. That probably makes me skeptical of cases where there actually may be outside agitators at work.

    1
  19. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    Re-read Joyner’s OP. And his update. Perhaps there is nuance I’m missing but I see it as entirely dismissive of Richmond mayor’s claims because “outside agitators” is a trope.

    No evidence. A claim.

    He declares bs. Subjectively institutional.

    2
  20. Jay L Gischer says:

    James, it appears that your skepticism of “outside agitators” implies that you believe white supremacists from Richmond are responsible for the damage. But it isn’t completely clear. Is that what you think?

    The quote about “antifa and boogaloo” is odd, since these groups are at odds, with very different and opposing goals. They probably weren’t both in that same group that caused problems. What is in evidence is a bunch of white people, using gear marked with “BLM”, perpetrating a lot of vandalism and violence. While other leaders of BLM, known to the police from before as such, were cooperating with police and working to keep people safe.

    So, crazy people trying to stir crap up under a false flag seems a pretty solid conclusion. Regardless of where they are from. Do you agree?

    8
  21. Kurtz says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Oh no… They have uniforms. So said noted intellectual, Rep. Dan Crenshaw.

    Hey, now… Leave the wounded veteran alone. We don’t criticize them. Unless they are a woman of color who lost her legs in a war, then feel free to go Ty Cobb on her.

    4
  22. de stijl says:

    @Kurtz:

    The classic Ty Cobb move was to go feet up when sliding into second to ding the lower leg with your spikes.

    Duckworth has prosthetics. She is immune.

    4
  23. ImProPer says:

    @ James Joiner.
    James, kudos for your update, way to minimize speculation.

    “Obviously, something having been used as a distractor for half a century—if not a couple centuries—doesn’t preclude it being true in this instance. But, absent pretty compelling evidence, that’s the way I’d bet.”

    I second that. In this day and age of “video evidence” , compelling as it is , is to often substituted for beyond a doubt reasoning, and that is a very big problem. While snippets of video, are good to induce scepticism, large multifaceted events, should require more than facile evidence to be very persuasive.

  24. KM says:

    @Jay L Gischer :
    I too am somewhat confused on James’ stance. If outside agitators aren’t causing problems, does that mean it’s local white supremacists starting things? Or is he disregarding the white supremacists part and citing local protesters for causing problems? The wording is somewhat unclear.

    Here’s what we do have: evidence of whites burning, attacking and generally trying to cause mayhem in a protests that feature a high percentage of non-whites, usually after dark when the main protests have died down. Quite a bit of violence that has been recorded has been tracked down to whites, including burning down that restaurant, driving into crowds and trying to blow stuff up. We have armed white militia men “counter-protesting” and generally brandishing weapons at “antifa” as well as documented chatter that they want to take this opportunity to start some mayhem. When they do misbehave, it’s a way that catches attention (possibly on purpose)

    While it may be an incorrect assumption to think white supremacists are causing these issues, it’s fair to say there’s a lot of valid reasons to jump to that conclusion. They cannot possibly be responsible for all the violence and frankly, I don’t think they account for more then a handful of incidences (albeit more high profile ones). Still, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, don’t be surprised if it gets labeled a duck. Right wing violence in America is FAR more likely to occur then left wing – a fact that’s been documented over the last few decades. It’s really, really easy to not give them the benefit of the doubt even if they do turn out to have mostly clean hands this time.

    5
  25. de stijl says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Antifa and bugaloo are enemies.

    Not sure that Joyner gets that.

    He fixated on “outside agitator”. That that is a trope. No evidence mic drop.

  26. Kingdaddy says:
  27. de stijl says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    I need to speak with your manager.

    3
  28. Scott says:

    This may not meet the definition of an outside agitator but still…

    Police: ‘Umbrella Man’ was a white supremacist trying to incite George Floyd rioting

    A masked man who was seen in a viral video smashing the windows of a south Minneapolis auto parts store during the George Floyd protests, earning him the moniker “Umbrella Man,” is suspected to be a member of the Hell’s Angels biker gang seeking to incite racial tension in a demonstration that until then had been peaceful, police said.

    A Minneapolis police arson investigator said the man’s actions at the AutoZone on East Lake Street set off a chain reaction that led to days of looting and rioting. The building was later burned to the ground.

    8
  29. de stijl says:

    Idiots read so much about false-flag operations decide to mount their own. CCTV around business are a thing. You will get caught.

    The dude who wrote the Turner Diaries would be proud. Manson, too.

    1
  30. EddieInCA says:

    @Scott:

    This will be the first of many they find, in my opinion. I knew the moment I saw that video that that guy was not part of the protestors. His behavior was so over the top that it was obvious, to me, that he was there just to wreak havoc.

    Dr. Joyner, you might want to update your post… again.

    The masked man intended to incite further racial tension in the demonstrations that had remained peaceful to that point, but the resulting violence left two people dead and caused an estimated $500 million in property damage.

    A livestream video recorded May 27, two days after Floyd’s killing by officers, showed the man walk up to an AutoZone store, smash the windows with a sledgehammer and then argue with protesters who asked him to stop.

    The man had also painted “free sh*t for everyone zone” on the store’s glass doors.

    5
  31. de stijl says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Surprised he didn’t go with “Killing pigs is groovy”.

    I actually like the AutoZone song in their ads. Clever.

  32. ImProPer says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    “The quote about “antifa and boogaloo” is odd, since these groups are at odds, with very different and opposing goals.”

    I am not a spokesman, for either movement, but do work with a few that are sympathetic to the so called Boogaloo movement. What I gather from them, is that they are quite in opposition to, at least the phenomenon, of what is classically considered ” Facism”. From my limited perspective, I wouldn’t find some type of mutual understanding to be that much of a stretch.

    3
  33. ImProPer says:

    @de stijl:

    I recently discovered a new term – SQW.

    Status Quo Warrior.

    Rejoinder to the pejorative SJW usage.

    Definitely clever sir, but in the age of Trump, I can’t figure out who the status quo are. Call me conservative, but I find rwnj, still a more accurate descriptor, if outdated.

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @ImProPer: From what I have read, the boogaloos run the ideological gamut from left to right and the only thing they agree on is “blow it all up.” If I understand correctly, that is usually in reference to the govt but not always.

    Or some other such half assed ideas.

    @ImProPer: I can’t figure out who the status quo are.

    Wealthy people. The status quo made them rich. Why change that?

    3
  35. Kurtz says:

    @de stijl:

    I was referring to this:

    But the most outrageous incident might be what happened more than a century ago today. While playing against the Highlanders in New York, Cobb was so incensed by remarks from a heckler named Claude Lucker that he charged into the stands and attacked the man. As Cobb began beating and stomping the man with those razor-sharp cleats that had punished so many basemen, a crew of his teammates held people at bay. Some in the crowd protested, since Lucker had lost all of one hand and most of the other in an industrial accident, and couldn’t defend himself with his fists. A cry went up: “Cobb, that man has no hands!” Cobb reportedly yelled back in a psychotic rage, “I don’t care if he got no feet!” Protected by his teammates, the beating went on until a cop and an umpire led Cobb away.

    1
  36. de stijl says:

    @Kurtz:

    He could hit like an angel. But he was a devil.

  37. Raoul says:

    JJ: please visit the startribune.com to read about Umbrella man. Just because the matter is overreported it does not mean it doesn’t happen.

    1
  38. Kurtz says:

    @de stijl:

    So, I remembered something about Cobb being repentant about things toward the end of his life. Don’t have a ton of time at this moment, but at least some of the negative stories about him are fabricated.

    Not so sure about his younger days, but there are some quotes about race that appear to show commitment to equality. Apparently, his lineage is from abolitionists, including his father.

    My curiosity is piqued.

    1
  39. de stijl says:

    Hey now! Hey, now. Don’t dream it’s over.

    We will get past this nonsense.

    You know they won’t win.

    Saw those guys twice. Once in a really small stand up venue. Crikey those guys can write a song! The Finn bros are cool dudes.

  40. de stijl says:

    @Kurtz:

    There was a film with Tommy Lee Jones as an old and dying Cobb. Called Cobb, oddly. 1994.

    I don’t know how much of it was imagined and how much real. Jones played him as prideful and irritated at the world iirc. Haven’t watched since round about release.

  41. Kurtz says:

    @de stijl:

    Al Stump, the ghostwriter for Cobb’s autobiography, caused subsequent controversy with some of the things he did and wrote. I’ll look into it a bit and see what I can find.

    IIRC, I first heard the “I don’t care if he got no feet!” story from the Burns documentary.

    I also know Cobb had quite amount of respect for Willie Mays and Ken Campanella and was pro-integration of baseball.

  42. ImProPer says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I read that as well. I was talking about my limited experience with individuals I had talked to. They were sympathetic to the protesters, but not the looters per say. They were definitely from the Libertarian persuasion, but certainly not anarchists. Like we’ve read, and seems true of antifa, they are apparently very diverse and unorganized movement. I just thought, for myself anyway, it lent some credence to James’ earlier opinion.

    Oh that status quo. Touche, I was talking about the Trumpists. They are a new phenomenon, but too old already! Hopefully they are on the fast track to history’s dust bin, and will never become a status quo.

  43. ammo says:

    @ImProPer: @Raoul:

    Literally ONE SINGLE GUY. That report ignores the fact that the Target was hit first with vandalism and looting, and 99% of the perps were non-white. Over half of the arrested and wanted arson suspects in the Twin Cities areas are non-white minorities, including a Latino and Arab couple who set fire to multiple, businesses.

    Yeah, it’s so overstated that you finally identified ONE white racist out of the hundreds that have been hit with federal charges.

    1
  44. ammo says:

    @Gustopher: At Least one of the six arrested is a black man.

  45. de stijl says:

    @ammo:

    At least one! Golly! That is indicative.

    1
  46. Gustopher says:

    @ammo: So that Target was the one where management was always trying out new and exciting “loss-prevention measures,” to see what was effective and what would be tolerated. By all accounts was a shitty and degrading experience for everyone who went there.

    I’m not surprised people would set it on fire.

    At the same time, though, I would not trust arrest statistics at this point, when what is being protested is racist police who arrest brown and black people more and single them out for abuse.

    And I wouldn’t trust the police at all. Here in Seattle, they alleged that someone threw a home made incendiary device at them, and it turned out to be a store bought candle. You might make a claim that a candle is technically an incendiary device, but it is not home made. They also claim to have been attacked, when video shows them as the aggressors, and that there was an explosion at the east precinct, which… well, no one is quite sure what the picture is of, but it’s not an explosion. Dry wall damage with a hammer maybe?

    1
  47. An Interested Party says:

    So, I remembered something about Cobb being repentant about things toward the end of his life.

    So was Lee Atwater (supposedly)…that doesn’t mean that any of the shit he did was any less despicable…you always have to wonder about people who are cruel for most of their lives and then, all of a sudden, feel remorse at the end…

    1
  48. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: Honestly, the police are a lot like the Clinton haters at this point. They have lied about so much, so often, that a large number of people just don’t believe anything they say without evidence backing it up.

    Was there an incendiary device? Were the police attacked by an unruly crowd? Did Hillary kill her lesbian lover Vince Foster to clean up loose ends from Bill running the Arkansas drug trade? About the same.

    4
  49. de stijl says:

    @An Interested Party:

    I question your “supposedly” on Atwater. That was on tape.

  50. An Interested Party says:

    @de stijl: Uh huh

    Ed Rollins stated in the 2008 documentary Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story:

    [Atwater] was telling this story about how a Living Bible was what was giving him faith and I said to Mary [Matalin], “I really, sincerely hope that he found peace”. She said, “Ed, when we were cleaning up his things afterwards, the Bible was still wrapped in the cellophane and had never been taken out of the package”, which just told you everything there was. He was spinning right to the end.

  51. ImProPer says:

    @ammo:

    In light of the numerous videos I have seen as to the racial make up of the looters/rioters, there were either a lot of darker skin rioters didguised in “Whiteface”, or the authorities are still not administering the law equally. Assuming your numbers are right of course

    1
  52. Kurtz says:

    @An Interested Party:

    I’m not sure. There seems to be quite a bit of research showing that many of the stories are exaggerated, and the racial incidents questionable.

  53. wr says:

    @de stijl: “Saw those guys twice. Once in a really small stand up venue. Crikey those guys can write a song! The Finn bros are cool dudes.”

    Saw them in LA when they had reunited Crowded House with both of them in it. One of the best shows I ever saw.

  54. wr says:

    @de stijl: “There was a film with Tommy Lee Jones as an old and dying Cobb”

    Never saw the movie, but read the script when I was at a studio and it was looking for a home. Written by Ron Shelton, maybe the greatest writer of sports movies ever — Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump, Tin Cup… Hell of a script.

    1
  55. de stijl says:

    @wr:

    I was into Split ENz in HS. My friends thought I was a pussy because it was too soft and pop.

  56. de stijl says:

    @wr:

    Btw, Haim has some new cool shit out. Check it.