The Cause of the Trouble

October 17, 1896


Two white policemen in plainclothes were disrespected by a black woman, and so chased her down, broke into a civilian house and caused property damage.


The public was alarmed by the news that a riot had been precipitated in Penitentiary Bottom and the evening papers had flaming headlines which would indicate that the Afro-Americans were in a state of insurrection.
The cause of the trouble was the action of Officer W. T. Foster, who is known to be absolutely without judgement in the matter of making arrests and has a tendency to make trouble rather than abate it.
A boy threw a rock on last Sunday morning. The officers were in citizens clothes and attempted to arrest tum. A colored man named Mr. Edward Knows said something that Mr. Foster did not like and he arrested him.
Mr. Brown's daughter interfered and the “gallant” officer with his legs in the air and coat-tails flying pursued a fleeing woman. She retreated to Peyton Cox’s house, and the officer without a warrant entered within the peaceful confines of his home while he was at dinner, and because resisted, arrested him, broke the glass-ware by over-turning the side-board and created confusion in general.
Mark you, the officers were in citizen’s clothes. They had no right to enter that residence had they have worn the uniform of the police officer. The colored people referred to, Mr. Peyton Cox, Miss Susie Brown, were carried to the station house, and now languish in jail.
It is needless to infer or intimate that the colored people of this community are riotous or fail to respect the officers of the law. When the "blue-coats and brass buttons" appear, peace reigns.
How did these colored people know that these white men were officers of the law?
We do not believe that another police-officer at the 2nd Police Station would have had the same trouble. Suppose these people had been white, suppose these officers hat struck a white woman, dragged he through the streets on a Sunday morning for a trivial offence. These people had committed no crime. They had stolen no property. They had committed no murder.
It was a beastly exercise of brutality. It was a base misrepresentation of one of kindliest races of people on the face of the globe.
No, we believe in respecting the law. We have one of the finest set police-officers anywhere in the country. They are in touch with the people, both white and colored.
It is with regret then that we record our disapprobation of the action of Officers Foster and Poitlaux, who caused the trouble and added insult to injury by invading the sacred precincts of a Virginian's home.
Mr. Cox could have been made to give up the prisoner or be punished for failing so to do, but he had a right to defend his home against any such invasion, be the person intruding an officer or a citizen.
It is strange, too. such conduct should occur in a police precinct, presided over by such an able and efficient officer as Capt. Angle, a gentle man noted for his executive ability and surrounded by sergeants, who are shrewd, capable and patient.
here was no riot in Penitentiary Bottom. There was no danger of any. There were two officers floundering around on a Sunday when they should have been at church and trying to arrest people who had not been guilt of conduct of sufficient importance to justify such conduct.
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Contributed By

Liam Eynan


“The Cause of the Trouble,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed January 16, 2019,