ACTIONS: March and April

Supporters of the No Stadium in Shockoe Bottom position are taking ACTION: 


The Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality are calling for a civil disobedience action to block construction of a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom. As of April 6, 2015, seven people have committed to risking arrest by standing in front of the bulldozers. MORE VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED. Exact details of the action will be worked out by the people who volunteer.
Contact: Phil Wilayto – 804-644-5834 or

July 8, 2013: City Council kills referendum proposal

Richmond City Council voted 6-3 July 8 against allowing an advisory referendum to ask voters if they want baseball in the city to stay where it is, on North Boulevard. The only serious alternative site - the one being pushed frenetically by the city's "developers" and other business interests, is in Shockoe Bottom, once the site of the second-largest slave-trading district in the country. 

Council members had some fascinating arguments about how allowing voters just to express their OPINION on this issue would be counter-productive, confusing and even undemocratic. Oh, the lure of the money. The one encouraging thing was that most members felt compelled to tell the dozens of Shockoe stadium opponents present that they understand the deep historical importance of Shockoe Bottom. So we have succeeded in making this an issue, which is the first step in winning a struggle. 

Thanks to the following folks for showing up the tonight's Council meeting: African Ancestral Chamber, Defenders, Occupy the Hood - Hampton Roads, UNIA-ACL, Collective X, Bainbridge Collective, Flying Brick Library, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, Church Hill residents and many more.

July 1: Stadium opponents speak out at Council committee meeting
     About 18 people attended the July 1 meeting of City Council's Organizational Development Standing Committee, which discussed Council President Charles Samuel's proposal to put a referendum question on the stadium on the Nov. 4 ballot. About 12 people spoke in support of the proposal. About five opposed it, including a representative of the Greater Richmond Chamber (of Commerce) and Jack Berry, Executive Director of the pro-business VentureRichmond.
     Fifth District Councilman Parker Agelasto made an excellent presentation about the importance of Shockoe Bottom to the Black community, holding up copy of the recent book "Slaves Waiting for Sale," which includes a map of the area showing the extent of the slave trade practiced there.        
    Agelasto also mentioned that he had received more than 300 emails about the stadium issue, with about 85 to 90 percent expressing opposition to putting a stadium in the Bottom.
     "When do we ever get that many emails about any issue?" he asked.
     Agelasto was the only Council member to really address the question of the Bottom's history. He, Samuels and 8th District Councilwoman Reva Trammel were the only members to support the referendum proposal. The other six voted to recommend that the full Council not put the stadium issue to a referendum in the November election. Council will make that decision at its next regular meeting, on July 8.
     The referendum wording asked if baseball in Richmond should stay where it is now, on North Boulevard. It was only an advisory referendum, meaning the result would not have forced Council to take a position one way or the other. 
     So it seems clear that the members voting against the proposal just wanted to avoid hearing a strong public demand for keeping baseball on the Boulevard, which would make it harder for them to support a stadium in Shockoe Bottom. And there will be a lot of money to go around for those willing to support the developers on this issue. 
     Newbille did call for public hearings, but she's Council's representative on the Slave Trail Commission, which has been promising for more than a year and a half to hold a public hearing on how to properly develop Richmond African Burial Ground - which, by the way, will revert back to the state if the City does not develop it within five years of its being reclaimed.  - P.W.

Latino/a high students join a protest against a Shockoe Bottom stadium. Their signs read "Honk if you support Black History!" and "Latinos support ur struggle."

June 19: Juneteenth protest demands 'No Stadium in Shockoe Bottom!"

     More than 30 people, Black, Latino and white, turned out June 19 for a one-hour vigil opposing a baseball stadium in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom. Known as Juneteenth, the date commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved Africans in Texas first learned about President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, issued two-and-a-half years earlier.
     The protest was held in Shockoe Bottom at the corner of Oliver Hill Way and East Broad Street, next to the Exxon gas station that sits on the former site of a slave jail owned by slave trader Silas Omohundro. A similar protest held April 3 at the same site also drew more than 30 people and was reported on by the Richmond Free Press, Style Weekly, Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Virginia Defender newspapers.
     Among the organizations represented at the Juneteenth vigil were Active RVA; African Ancestors Chamber; All As One; Ashley Foundation; Bainbridge Collective; Collective X; Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality; First Unitarian Church of Richmond; Richmond Food Not Bombs; United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400; Wayside Center for Popular Education; and the Wingnut Collective.
     Also participating were three Latino/a students or recent graduates of Huguenot High School. The three young people were among the leaders of a protest held June 13 outside the school in response to what they charged was a pattern of discrimination against Latinos/as by the school's administration. Among those attending that protest were members of the Defenders, several African-American School Board members and Dr. Kim Allen, President of the Richmond Branch NAACP. Today the Latino/a students returned the solidarity, holding signs that read "We support ur struggle!" and "Honk if you support Black History!"
     The protest was called by the Defenders as part of the ongoing struggle to prevent the further desecration of Shockoe Bottom, the site of what once was the second-largest market in all of North America for the trading of enslaved Africans.
     Earlier in the day, a report on the stadium struggle appeared on the website of PressTV, the English-language television station of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 


June 15: Community meeting on the stadium proposal
calls for outreach, protests & petitioning
More than 40 people, two-thirds of them African-American, attended a Community Meeting held Saturday, June 15, to build opposition to building a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom, Richmond's downtown area that once held the second-largest market for enslaved Africans in all of North America.
     The meeting, sponsored by the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, was held at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Richmond's East End. Pastored by the Rev. Rodney Hunter, the church had previously hosted the 2013 Virginia People's Assembly.
     The meeting was co-chaired by Monica Esparza of the African Ancestral Chamber and Ana Edwards, Chair of the Defenders' Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project.
     The speakers were Dr. Shawn Utsey, Chair of Virginia Commonwealth University's African American Studies Department and a member of Richmond City Council's "Slave" Trail Commission; Dr. Philip Schwarz, Professor Emeritus of History at VCU and a former Commission member; Chadra Walke, Director of the Sankofa Project; and Phil Wilayto, Editor of The Virginia Defender newspaper
     After a general discussion, the meeting's participants agreed to call for a "Vigil to Say No to a Baseball Stadium in Shockoe Bottom," to take place from 5-6 pm on Wednesday, June 19 (Juneteenth), at the southwest corner of East Broad and 17th streets, next to the Exxon gas station, in Shockoe Bottom. This site would be in the northeast corner of the proposed stadium.
     Participants also agreed to collect signatures on a petition opposing the stadium. They left with copies of the petition and the Spring 2013 edition of The Virginia Defender newspaper, which includes background material on this struggle. 
     A video of the meeting is now being edited by the African Ancestral Chamber and will be posted soon.


Photo by Phil Wilayto

Members of the African Ancestral Chamber, Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, Collective X and others hold a protest vigil April 3, 2013, at the proposed site for a Shockoe Bottom stadium. The date was the 148th anniversary of the liberation of Richmond by Union troops and the ending of more than 200 years of slavery in the city.
April 3: Richmonders say 'No Stadium in Shockoe Bottom!'

     Once known as Emancipation Day in Richmond, April 3 ought to be a national holiday - or at least officially celebrated in Virginia's capital city. That was the day in 1865 that Union troops, led by Black soldiers, marched into Richmond, liberated its inhabitants from Confederate rule and ended more than 200 years of slavery in the city. 
     For years it was a day of mass marches and celebrations. Now Emancipation Day is the name given to celebrating Jan. 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing enslaved Africans everywhere - except where the Union Army could actually have made his decree a reality.
     In an attempt to revive the spirit of struggle that Emancipation Day, now known as Liberation Day, once represented, about 30 members and supporters of local activist organizations, including the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, the African Ancestral Chamber and Collective X, held a protest vigil on April 3, 2013, at the corner of 17th and East Broad streets in downtown. The protest focused on the proposal by Richmond's business elite to build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom, once the site of the second-largest slave-trading district in all of North America.


Photo by Collective X

Members and friends of the Richmond activist group Collective X stage a bold action at the Diamond baseball stadium, opposing the proposal to move the stadium to historic Shockoe Bottom. The creative protest was warmly received by both the crowd and stadium employees.
May 17: Bringing it to the fans: Collective X at the Diamond!

Collective X is a local multi-issue, direct action collective based in Richmond, Virginia. On May 17, its members carried out a very creative and successful action at The Diamond, the baseball stadium on Richmond's Boulevard that is the home to the Flying Squirrels, the local double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. There is a news report on this action under "MEDIA COVERAGE," but here is their own report:

Friday, May 17th, the group watched the Flying Squirrels play the Altoona Curve. Beyond enjoying the game, the group was there to raise awareness of the City's plans to move the beloved Diamond stadium to Shockoe Bottom. 

During the 6th inning, the group held up two banners: 'Squirrels Like High Ground,' and 'No Stadium In Shockoe!' The reception couldn't have been better, with plenty of baseball fans, and even a few stadium (employees), agreeing with the banner's sentiment. 100 flyers calling for the preservation of African history in the Bottom and keeping the stadium on the Boulevard were eagerly retrieved by fans. 

All in all the event was a great way to spend a warm Friday evening while raising awareness. The group plans to do more events in the future. If you would like more information about upcoming evenings at the Diamond or if you have a group that is interested in planning a similar action, contact the group at

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