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The Nation : Justice Dept. May Probe Response to Riot

September 06, 1989

The U.S. Justice Department said it may investigate whether authorities used excessive force to quell weekend riots in Virginia Beach, Va., but local officials defended the actions of police and National Guard troops. "It's incredible that (the officers) were able to restore law and order without firing a single shot or using fatal force," City Manager Aubrey V. Watts Jr. said. Merchants spent the day cleaning up from the rioting, much of it by black college students attending the annual Greekfest. At least 100 businesses were looted, more than 1,000 people were arrested and 30 police officers or National Guardsmen were hurt, officials said. State civil rights leaders have said police overreacted, that the city and merchants made the students feel unwelcome and that police would have reacted differently had the crowd been white. A Justice Department spokeswoman said the FBI and the department's Civil Rights Division may probe the riot's handling after reviewing videotapes.

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