A Virginia state senator has been charged with damaging a Confederate monument in Portsmouth during a protest that led to a demonstrator being seriously injured.
Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene said at a news conference Tuesday that state senator Louise Lucas has been charged with conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in excess of $1,000 according to ABC7.
Lucas, a longtime Democratic legislator, has been a member of the state Senate since 1992. Lucas was charged the same week Virginia lawmakers are taking up dozens of criminal justice reforms during a special legislative session.
Democrats and social justice organizations were quick to condemn the charges.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia called for the charges against Lucas and several others to be dropped, saying the charges are a stark overreach by police since the charges were not approved by the local prosecutor’s office.
Claire G. Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia ACLU, said the state is one of the few states where a felony warrant can be filed with the approval of a prosecutor.
“These charges are political, and I think they’re discriminatory,” Gastañaga said.
“The police department is making decisions about who should be charged in a circumstance in which the elected (prosecutor) is being bypassed,” Gastañaga added. “The police want a different result” and that is alarming.
The charges come during a summer when confederate statues are being taken down, whether by demonstrators opposed to racial injustice or by authorities seeking to dismantle them through official channels.
The monuments, which have been long viewed by Black Americans as symbols of White supremacy and racism, however, they’ve drawn refocused attention following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The monument, which consists of a large obelisk and statues of four Confederate military personnel, had the heads of the statues torn down in June. One of the heads accidentally struck a protester during the demonstration.
Greene, the Portsmouth police chief, said “several individuals conspired and organized to destroy the monument as well as summon hundreds of people to join in felonious acts.”
However, Greene did not detail what Lucas or several other people are accused of doing to merit the charges that have been filed against them.
Stephanie Morales, the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney, told The Associated Press in an email that her office did not sign off on the police department’s charges.
The others that were charged include members of the local NAACP chapter, a local school board member and members of the public defenders office according to Greene.