VA Police Charge Civil Rights Leaders, Try To Sideline Progressive Prosecutor
According to HuffPost, a police department in Virginia has charged a prominent politician, local civil rights leaders and public defenders with felonies related to the June destruction of Confederate statues and “is also pushing to prevent a progressive prosecutor from handling the cases.”
- “The Portsmouth Police Department announced Monday that it put felony warrants out against Virginia Senate Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D), a local school board member, leaders of the local NAACP and public defenders,” the news outlet reported.
- Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene’s announcement of the charges and warrants “quickly drew scrutiny from Democrats and civil rights leaders in Virginia, who saw both the broad charges and the timing of Greene’s announcement as suspicious.”
- HuffPost reported that the charges “include felony injury to a monument and conspiracy, related to the destruction of Confederate statues in Portsmouth in June during protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism.”
Demonstrators beheaded four statues and pulled down one, which fell onto and seriously injured one of the protesters on the scene. While court documents have not been made publicly available, it appears that Portsmouth police took a very broad view of what it meant to enter into a conspiracy to destroy the statues. Greene stated that the investigation identified “several individuals [who] conspired and organized to destroy the monument as well as summonsed hundreds of people to join in the felonious acts.”
- As for Stephanie Morales, the commonwealth’s attorney in Portsmouth, the police are “claiming the prosecutor is a potential eyewitness ― even though she says she wasn’t at the scene of the protests.”
- Morales’ office said she “was not on scene to be an eyewitness to any of the matters listed” and that it plans to squash any potential subpoenas she might get.
Morales ― who as a 36-year-old Black woman has broken barriers amid a population of elected prosecutors that skews older, white and male ― has gained a reputation has a progressive prosecutor. In 2016, she successfully prosecuted a Portsmouth officer for killing an unarmed 18-year-old Black teenager. She often speaks to the harm caused by mass incarceration, she’s worked to dismiss marijuana possession cases in Portsmouth, and she recently helped form a new organization of Virginia prosecutors to help push for criminal justice reform.
- “Now it appears she’s facing backlash from within the city police department,” HuffPost wrote, also noting that “Other progressive prosecutors, including Kim Gardner in St. Louis, have come under attack both externally and from within the ranks of law enforcement in their cities.”
- However, the publication reported that "the divisions don’t break down precisely along racial lines" in Portsmouth.
Chief Greene, who is Black, replaced the first Black female police chief in Virginia, who said she faced systemic racism on the job from a “small contingency” of Portsmouth officers whose racism was “so inflammatory” that she declined to detail it because she feared disclosing it would threaten public safety.