Cops in Portsmouth, Virginia, are trying to arrest state Sen. Louise Lucas, the first Black president pro tempore of the state Senate, for damaging a Confederate monument that was toppled several hours after she left the area. They've also issued warrants for the arrest of NAACP officials, members of the public defender's office, and a local school board member. You know, just in case there was any doubt that 2020 has gone completely off the rails.

The trouble started on June 9, when the Portsmouth City Council met to discuss removing a statue of Confederate soldiers erected on the spot where enslaved people had been publicly beaten at a whipping post. The Virginian-Pilot reports that Police Chief Angela Greene allowed the demonstrators to cover the statue with plastic on the night of June 9, but someone removed the covering in the early hours of June 10. And when local NAACP Chair James Boyd hopped the fence around the statue to put the plastic back, he and Vice Chair Louie Gibbs were arrested and charged with trespassing.

Lucas headed to the scene shortly after, where video shows her saying, "They cannot arrest them because the city owns this property. Come July 1, they can take it down anyway. So, these police officers cannot arrest them for being on city property. So, I'm going to stand right here and see what's going to happen."


Which hardly sounds like fighting words! But that hasn't stopped police from pretending that she incited a riot and is responsible for the subsequent property destruction that followed several hours later when protesters pulled down part of the statue, injuring one demonstrator when it fell on him. There's no argument that Lucas went back to work at 2:25 p.m. on June 10. She never touched that monument; she never told anyone to touch the monument; and she never coordinated a plan to touch that monument. Which is why federal and state prosecutors took a flyer on the police's recommendation to charge her with anything.

But Lucas is presiding over a special legislative session, which starts today — heckuva coincidence! — where she will press for greater civilian oversight of the police force. And she also called for Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene to resign, blaming her for inappropriately arresting Boyd and Gibbs and escalating tensions at the demonstration — another heckuva coincidence!

So yesterday, Police Chief Greene convened a press conference without informing local prosecutors, at which she announced charges of conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument against eight people, including Lucas, Boyd, Gibbs, NAACP representative Lakeesha Hicks, and school board member Lakeesha "Klu" Atkinson. Six people, including three public defenders, were charged with felony injury to a monument. Each charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison ... if prosecutors are actually willing to take them up.

Which they very clearly are not, since Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales told the police not to use the threat of prosecution on the day of the protest, and her office refused to prosecute Boyd and Gibbs for misdemeanor trespass, much less felony injury to a monument.

But Virginia law allows cops to independently initiate charges, so after prosecutors gave her the brush off, Police Chief Greene took the law into her own hands.

"Furthermore, when a discussion with the commonwealth's attorney regarding a special grand jury and a special prosecutor did not yield any action, it was the duty of the Portsmouth Police Department to begin a thorough and comprehensive investigation into this incident," she said yesterday.

Naturally, the Virginia GOP — which has been on a mission to racism itself into permanent irrelevance — is all over this one.

"Felony charges leveled against a sitting state senator are to be taken seriously, and should not be sought out for political gain," said state party chair Rich Anderson, who has been leading the charge to recall Lucas and is now facing a $20 million defamation lawsuit filed by the senator. "It is for that reason that the Republican Party of Virginia calls for Senator Lucas to turn herself in. Immediately."

Eh, screw that guy.

Let's let Sen. Lucas have the last word here.

"That Confederate monument is nothing more than a symbol of racism to be rubbed in the faces of the Black community every time we have to see it," Lucas said.

"It ain't nothing but a symbol of slavery and racism. Had they done what we tried to do in 2017 and had it moved to the cemetery, this wouldn't be an issue today, but they wanted to be so bent on bringing pain to the Black community that they insisted on it being there anyway. I didn't want it defaced. I wanted to put it in the cemetery where it belongs — dead."

AMEN.

[Virginian-Pilot / WAVY / Virginian-Pilot / Politico]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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