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Virginia state senator faces felony charges after protesters topple Confederate statue

August 18, 2020
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Virginia state senator faces felony charges after protesters topple Confederate statueVirginia state senator faces felony charges after protesters topple Confederate statue

Virginia state Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) is among several people charged with damaging a Confederate monument during a protest in Portsmouth that left a man critically injured, police announced Monday.

Lucas faces a count of conspiring to commit a felony and felony injury to a public monument in excess of $1,000 in relation to the June 10 incident, Police Chief Angela Greene said at news briefing, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Greene also announced warrants against Portsmouth NAACP President James Boyd, a local school board member and others allegedly involved in the protest where demonstrators toppled a statue honoring a Confederate soldier, according to WVEC. The charges follow an independent investigation and come ahead of a special legislative session during which Virginia lawmakers are set to discuss police and criminal justice reforms.

Lucas and others are accused of organizing the “destructive” protest and summoning hundreds to take part, which led to the monument being destroyed. A man was hurt as protesters brought down the statue, McClatchy News reported.

“I am asking for these persons to immediately turn themselves in to the Portsmouth Police Department,” Greene said, according to the Times-Dispatch.

News of the charges against Lucas drew criticism from fellow Democrats including Gov. Ralph Northam, who voiced support for the state lawmaker.

“It’s deeply troubling that on the verge of Virginia passing long-overdue police reform, the first Black woman to serve as our Senate Pro Tempore is suddenly facing highly unusual charges,” Northam wrote on Twitter.

Claire G. Gastañaga, executive director for the ACLU of Virginia, told the Associated Press she feels the charges are political. The civil rights group has since called for all charges to be dropped against Lucas and the six others.

“I think they’re discriminatory,” Gastañaga told the outlet, which confirmed the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office hadn’t approved the police charges. “The police department is making decisions about who should be charged in a circumstance in which the elected (prosecutor) is being bypassed. The police want a different result.”

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus also weighed in on what they called “suspiciously timed and seemingly retaliatory actions” by Portsmouth police against the senator.

“I believe during the incident in question, Sen. Lucas stood up for protesters,” Chairman Lamont Bagley said in a statement. “We’re confident that justice will be served and that she will be exonerated of these charges. She was there fighting for justice.”

McClatchy News contacted Lucas’ office for comment Tuesday and is awaiting response.

The investigation into the protest is ongoing, Greene said.

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