The focus of the Binstead event was certainly on Richmond, portraying Richmond as a wounded community.
Roughly 300 people gathered last night to pay their respects to Tyler Binsted, the 19-year-old VCU student recently gunned down in Byrd Park. The crowd, peppered with local citizens, art-school friends, police, professional photographers, and news crews, gathered under a single, harsh streetlight near Byrd Park’s Roundhouse for a vigil honoring Binsted at 8:30pm.
Vigil-goers formed a wide, respectful semicircle around Binsted’s family, only to strain to see past the scaffolds of multiple news cameras that had muscled up to the front for close-ups. The event was officiated by Citizens Against Crime’s founder, Alicia Rasin. “Tyler did not die in vain,” said Ms. Rasin in her opening remarks, urging friends and strangers alike to keep the family in their prayers. In reference to one suspect that has yet to be caught, she exhibited an attitude of complete confidence, saying “The other person who’s out there, I’m not even worried about him. They will get him off of the street. You can run, but you can’t hide.”
Chief Willie B. Fuller of the VCU Police Department confirmed Rasin’s statement. “We’re here to make sure that senseless crimes like this don’t go unpunished,” he said.
The focus of the event was certainly on violence in Richmond, portraying Richmond as a wounded community rather than mentioning much of anything about Tyler Binsted himself. Every opportunity was taken for various officials — addressing the news cameras rather than the mourners — to mention steps currently being taken to curb the violence, to tout themselves as part of a very important cause, and to encourage residents to raise awareness and be catalysts for change. Little was said about Binsted’s active part in the VCU art community, and instead the personality of this sculpture student was honored with verbose prayers and a loud, soulful hymn. To an outsider, the vigil seemed like an inappropriately mis-matched, if well-intentioned, eulogy. Perhaps tact, and not sincerity, was lacked by the decision to place the vigil’s emphasis on public relations statements. One can hope that at least the family was touched by the turnout, and by the vigor with which the event was undertaken.
Tealights were handed out to the crowd, and Rasin proceeded to light her own candle, next passing the flame to the Binsted family. Family members and others then helped to spread the candlelight to every attendee, until each person held a small flame, shielding it against the light breeze. Rasin then instructed the crowd to hold its candles high in the air, and to shout “Happy birthday Tyler, we love you!” twice into the night sky before blowing out the candles. Binsted’s 20th birthday would have taken place next week.
In a city that’s seen its murder rate drop dramatically in the past several years, it’s a wonder that this one crime has set off such a scramble to display the fact that Richmond does, in fact, oppose the occurrence of violence within its realm. The facts would seem to speak for themselves, proclaiming that these crimes are diminishing, if not altogether able to disappear. But the fact that an organization like Citizens Against Crime exists and is willing to appear as a gesture of goodwill when necessary is also probably a good sign, speaking well of Richmond as a whole.