Virginia’s Youngkin calls pro-Palestinian protest on interstate ‘unacceptable’

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Virginia’s governor has responded to a group of pro-Palestinian protesters who blocked a segment of an interstate on Monday in protest of Israel’s continued war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

“It is unacceptable to block interstates, endanger the lives of Virginians and cause mayhem on our roads,” Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a post on X, adding that he was grateful to Virginia State Police “for their commitment to ensuring safety and quickly handling during this morning’s commute.”

The Republican governor’s comments came after Virginia State Police arrested nine protesters earlier in the day near Exit 78 near Arthur Ashe Boulevard in Richmond. The protesters had taped themselves together and positioned themselves across Interstate 95, completely blocking the roadway.

Virginia State Police said the protesters used ladders, a large metal chain and “sleeping dragon” devices. Photos taken at the scene also showed the protesters wearing sweaters that read, “STOP GENOCIDE.”

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Police, protester

Virginia State Police arrested nine pro-Palestinian protesters near Exit 78 by Arthur Ashe Boulevard in Richmond on Monday. (Virginia State Police)

In a statement online, Virginia State Police said they started receiving calls from multiple motorists reporting the blocked road at approximately 6:54 a.m.

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“Arriving on scene, state police encountered nine individuals lying in the southbound lanes [had] linked themselves together using two ladders, a large metal chain and ‘sleeping dragon’ devices,” police said.

Chains, protester equipment

Authorities said the protesters linked themselves together using two ladders, a large metal chain and “sleeping dragon” devices. (Virginia State Police)

“At 7:09 a.m., state police declared an Unlawful Assembly (Code of Virginia 18.2-406…§ 18.2-406. What constitutes an unlawful assembly; punishment (virginia.gov)). For the protesters’ safety and to expedite the reopening of the interstate lanes, the protesters were guided to the right, southbound shoulder of the interstate. Three of the protesters voluntarily gave up almost immediately. They were taken into custody and transported off the interstate,” the statement continued.

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About 10 minutes later, the southbound lanes were reopened to traffic, the agency said.

Youngkin at polling station

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin called the pro-Palestinian protest that disrupted traffic on the interstate “unacceptable.” (Julia Nikhinson/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Additional officers assisted in the arrest and six more protesters were taken into custody.

“Specially-trained troopers arrived at scene to safely extricate the remaining six protesters from the sleeping dragon devices, which turned out to be large PVC piping wrapped in chicken wire and connected via a large metal chain. The six were then taken into custody without further incident and transported off the interstate,” VSP said.

Hamas terrorists in Gaza

The Israel-Hamas war has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths on both sides, with most being Palestinian civilians. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

According to the statement, the scene was cleared by approximately 10:30 a.m.

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The City of Richmond Police, City of Richmond Fire and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) all assisted in the arrests or in relaying scene safety, traffic control and traffic advisories to residents.

The following protesters were charged with stopping the vehicle of another, obstructing free passage of others, unlawful assembly and being a pedestrian on the interstate:

  • Zayneabideen Rasul Al-Murshidi, 23, of Roanoke
  • Max Hudson Gray Holland, 24, of Henrico
  • Charles D. Caines, 23, of Round Hill
  • Kemp Walker Barber, 25, of Richmond
  • Connor Joris McCarty, 21, of Norfolk
  • Naomi Destiny Isaac, 25, of Richmond
  • Sarah Elizabeth Milkowski Dahlgren, of Henrico
  • Kenrick Keith Cameron Jr., 25, of Richmond
  • Jasmine Juliet Cuellar, 30, of Richmond

There were no injuries reported by the protesters or the law enforcement officers, police said.

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Israel continues to be at war with Hamas since the terror group carried out its Oct. 7 surprise attack, the deadliest attack on Israeli soil in its history as a country. The war has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths on both sides, with most of the casualties being Palestinian civilians.

The civilian death toll has prompted protests around the world.



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