Henrico County officials and the Henrico County Manager shut down a fundraiser to support COVID-19 relief and Black Lives Matter on Tuesday.
State Senator Joe Morrissey (D-16) was hosting and sponsoring the event alongside local Richmond promoters Avantae Jones and Keron Dixon with their company True Society Events, LLC.
“About two weeks ago I approached two young, African American promoters about doing a COVID-19 [and] BLM fundraiser at my farm on the [James] river,” Morrissey said in an interview with The Virginia Star. “It’s about 50 acres of secluded area and I have had about 12 parties there for my district in the last 12-15 years. It’s a big farm, there is ten acres just for parking and we have had food, alcohol, bands, etc., [for events].
Jones and Dixon began promoting the September 5 event online and had sold about 300 tickets.
“The real big part of the fundraiser is a lot of kids don’t have laptops or tablets right now for virtual learning, so most of the proceeds were going toward that and Black Lives Matter,” Jones said in an interview with The Star.
Police, who monitor social media, saw posts about the event and called saying they were going to shut down the fundraiser because it violated local ordinates, which prohibit “having a festival in a residential neighborhood,” Morrissey said.
Tuesday, a Zoom conference call took place between Morrissey, Jones and Dixon, Henrico County officials and a representative from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, according to Morrissey.
On the call, the officials repeated that festivals in residential neighborhoods were prohibited, which prompted Morrissey to ask why there was never any issues with his previous parties, one that had 2,000 people attend, Morrissey explained.
Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas, who was not invited to the call but had been listening in with one county official, then interjected saying that the fundraiser was shutdown and that was the end of the discussion, Morrissey said.
Jones and Dixon were not even given an opportunity to speak and argue in favor of the event that they had put around $8,000 of their own money toward, according to Jones.
“I felt a little racial profiling toward me because of the fact that if we probably were Caucasian, it would have never been misconstrued or anything,” Jones said.
Vithoulkas and other Henrico County officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment The Star by the time of publication.
Henrico County officials told Morrissey that they were not aware the event was a COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter fundraiser, but the decision to was still final, according to Morrissey.
“I think they made a decision that we don’t want that element in here, therefore we are going to close it down without even listening to [the promoters],” Morrissey said. “They came on to the Zoom conference call and had already made up their minds.
“I think it is disgraceful and I think the county manager has got to answer for why he shut down a BLM/COVID-19 fundraiser that was being promoted by two African Americans on my farm under the guise that it was a festival in a residential neighborhood.”
Now, the event is being labeled as a cookout at Morrissey’s farm with no tickets being sold and voluntary donations to both causes, Morrissey said.
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