Democratic state Sen. Louise Lucas was charged with conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in excess of $1,000 during the June 10 incident, Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene said Aug. 17 during a news conference.
On June 10, a Confederate monument was vandalized and broken apart by Black Lives Matter demonstrators. In the incident, a protester was seriously injured when a piece of the statue fell on him.
Police have since been compiling evidence, including video footage, from that demonstration, Greene said.
WAVY10 obtained police body camera footage of Lucas at the scene, telling police, “I’m telling you, you can’t arrest them.”
The department also charged three NAACP representatives and a Portsmouth school board member.
“What is important to note is that of all the incidents that occurred across our nation, our incident was the only incident that resulted in a man being gravely injured,” Greene said, according to WAVY.
“So it is my hope that my community truly understands that at no point did any member of the Portsmouth Police Department condone the felonious acts that occurred on June 10.”
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam criticized the decision on Twitter.
“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,” he wrote on Aug. 17.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia says the charges against Lucas and several others should be dropped, claiming they’re an overreach because they weren’t approved by a prosecutor’s office.
Lucas’s attorney, Don Scott, told WAVY-TV that she will fight the charges. Previously, Lucas told local media outlets that she did nothing wrong.
“Consequently, they’re doing what they always do, which is they weaponize the criminal justice system against black leadership, and that’s what they’re doing this time. We’re gonna fight it vehemently, we’re gonna fight it vigorously,” he said.
Lucas was described by WAVY-TV as a key power broker in Virginia’s state Senate, joining the chamber nearly 30 years ago. The charges were filed as lawmakers were set to vote and debate on criminal justice reforms in the state legislature.
Greene said that “individuals conspired and organized to destroy the monument as well as summon hundreds of people to join in felonious acts,” Politico reported.
The acts “not only resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the monument, but also permanent injury to an individual,” she said.
The protest was part of civil unrest, riots, looting, and vandalism that occurred across numerous U.S. cities in the wake of George Floyd’s death in May.