Scenes from a Protest

Scenes from a Protest
All photographs by Lili Chuanyi Watkins

Virginia Commonwealth University, April 2024

By Lili Chuanyi Watkins

On Monday, April 29, 2024, Virginia Commonwealth University students set up a pro-Palestine encampment outside the school’s library to urge the university to disclose and divest financial ties to Israel.

A wall of flags, signs, and posters surrounds the encampment area.

Meals, snacks, desserts, and more are donated to the encampment by fellow protestors and supporters in the Richmond community. Later that evening police confiscate all that is left.

Throughout the day on April 29, students paint pictures and make posters showing their support for Palestine.

That evening, the organizers of the Students for Justice for Palestine inform the demonstrators that police are expected to arrive shortly at the scene in front of the VCU library.

The protestors in the front line wait for police to arrive, covering their faces as much as possible to conceal their identities, as well as preparing for the deployment of tear gas by police.

The headlights of the police cars and bus shine on the barricade protestors have made to protect the encampment.

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Virginia State Police file out of the bus and immediately get into formation to approach the wall of protestors.

Virginia State police, along with VCU police, form a wall of their own to approach the crowd.

Police try to clear the area by pushing the demonstrators with riot shields. The following photographs show the increasing levels of force and violence. 

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After using their riot shields to force the crowd back toward the library, police regroup.

Spectators on lockdown line up at the library windows to observe the chaos below. 

The second wave of violence starts when the police once again use their riot shields to try to disperse the protestors.

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The first wave of arrests occurs with protestors being tackled and dragged to the ground.

The protestors who are arrested are taken away in zip ties after being tackled and pepper sprayed.

A member of the Virginia State police shows a can of tear gas to warn a protestor to not come any closer.

A protestor stands in front of a line of police, looking at them with disappointment.

Fully armed


Lili Chuanyi Watkins is a rising junior in the Fine Arts Program at Virginia Commonwealth University and a photographer for the VCU Sports Creative Content Team. She is a 2022 graduate of James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg where she was a four-sport athlete. She is also a certified Tree Steward and longtime volunteer with Tree Fredericksburg.