A Virginia state senator faces charges after tearing down a Confederate monument during a protest in Portsmouth, authorities said on Monday (Aug. 17). Sen. Louise Lucas has been charged with conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in excess of $1,000. The Confederate statue was reportedly torn down during a protest in June and led to one demonstrator being critically injured.
Sen. Lucas turned herself in to the Portsmouth sheriff’s office on Tuesday (Aug. 18). She was released on a personal recognizance bond that afternoon and did not have to post bail. The state senator is one of 14 people facing charges as a result of the monument’s dismantling, including a three public defenders, a Portsmouth school board member and local NAACP chapter members.
Lucas is a longtime Democratic politician and joined Virginia’s state senate in 1992. She became the first Black woman to as president pro tempore. Several Democratic lawmakers, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam quickly condemned the charges against her.
“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,” Gov. Northam tweeted Monday (Aug. 17).
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia also demanded the charges against Lucas and others to be dropped and called them an overreach, since the charges were not approved by the Portsmouth prosecutor’s office.
“These charges are political, and I think they’re discriminatory,” Virginia ACLU Executive Director Claire Gastañaga said. “The police department is making decisions about who should be charged in a circumstance in which the elected [prosecutor] is being bypassed.”
According to Lucas’ attorney Don Scott Jr., the state senator attended the June protest against the Confederate monument early in the afternoon and stayed for “no longer than 30 minutes.” It was reportedly later in the evening when a man was injured by one of the statues being torn down.
“I expect that the senator will be vindicated,” Scott said “She is a strong woman; her head [has been] up high the whole time.”
About the charges, Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene said that “several individuals conspired and organized to destroy the monument as well as summon hundreds of people to join in felonious acts”.
The news follows many accounts of other Confederate statues and monuments to slavery being removed in cities around the country.