Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas was cleared Monday of felony charges alleging that she helped conspire to topple a Confederate monument in Portsmouth during a summer protest over police brutality and racial inequity, reports the Washington Post. Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales said police failed to show any evidence that a felony had been committed. Tensions surrounding the since-removed monument continued to simmer, with the Portsmouth police chief who brought the criminal charges claiming that she had been fired in reprisal, and Lucas calling the case an attempt to “bring down” Black leadership in the coastal city of 94,000. Then-Police Chief Angela Greene pursued the charges against Lucas and 18 co-defendants in August, citing their alleged actions at demonstrations near the monument on June 10, in the heated days after the killing of George Floyd.
Lucas, the first Black woman to serve as president pro tempore of the Virginia Senate, was part of a crowd gathered at the 35-foot granite obelisk ringed by four statues, erected to honor slain Confederate soldiers from the Portsmouth area. Police video shows Lucas telling officers they could not arrest the demonstrators, who she said were about to paint the monument. Greene announced the warrants for Lucas and her co-defendants — including three local public defenders, a local school board member and the president of the Portsmouth NAACP — the day before the senator joined other lawmakers in Richmond for a special session of the General Assembly. The charges drew outrage from Lucas’s political allies, who called the accusations payback for the veteran legislator’s work to rein in police abuses. Lucas on Monday called the charges a “national embarrassment” for a city whose residents are 55 percent African American, and said Greene’s termination was “the right decision.”