Nine anti-war protesters due in court Friday for I-95 blockade

George Copeland Jr. | 6/20/2024, 7 a.m.
Nine protesters will go to trial Friday, June 21, at the John Marshall Courts building for blockading Interstate 95 in …

Nine protesters will go to trial Friday, June 21, at the John Marshall Courts building for blockading Interstate 95 in March as part of an anti-war protest against the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

The group, referred to as the “I-9” by supporters, have been charged with multiple misdemeanors that could lead to jail time and fines if convicted. Supporters have called on Commonwealth’s Attorney Collette McEachin to drop the charges. When asked for a statement, McEachin refused to comment.

The protest began some time before 7 a.m. March 11, with the nine binding themselves together with a chain, ladders and piping wrapped in wire to prevent separation. Virginia State Police were alerted to the blockade by drivers and arrived on the scene soon after, declaring the protest an unlawful assembly and arrested the protesters. The highway reopened around 10:30 a.m. with no reported injuries.

The protesters and their supporters, identifying themselves as the “VA I-9 for Palestine Community Support Committee,” reiterated their dedication to their cause in released statements.

“I understand the Palestinian struggle for national liberation as connected to the broader anti-colonial struggle for peace being waged by Black and Indigenous people across the Global South,” said Naomi Isaac, one of the protesters and an organizer for Virginia Student Power Network, Southerners on New Ground and member of the Black Alliance for Peace. 

“[It’s] a struggle to create dignified lives for our ancestors, free from the violence of patriarchy, policing and war.” 

Around 35,000 Palenstians have been reported dead and over 77,000 reported injured since the conflict in Gaza began last year, a response by Israel to the roughly 1,100 Israelis killed and about 250 people abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7. 

The blockade was just one of several protests against the war and its impact on Palestinian life in Richmond in recent months, including an anti-war encampment established on Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park campus that was dispersed hours later by campus, local and state police using riot shields and tear gas. 

Thirteen people were arrested at the encampment and charged with unlawful assembly and trespassing, including six students who were disciplined through VCU’s student conduct procedures. All but one of those arrested at the VCU encampment were arraigned at the John Marshall Courts building in May, with their cases continued until Friday, June 28. 

The VA I-9 for Palestine Community Support Committee stated in their press release that they plan to demonstrate at the courthouse Friday at the trial.