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Virginia police chief fired after charges dropped over Confederate monument protest

Portsmouth, Va.’s police chief was fired Monday shortly after criminal charges against a Black lawmaker representing the area were dismissed.

State Sen. Louise Lucas (D), the state’s most senior Black legislator, was arrested in June at a protest calling for the removal of Confederate monuments, according to NBC News. Multiple monuments were damaged during the protest and Lucas, along with several other local Black leaders, was charged with conspiring to vandalize them.

Democrats have condemned the charges against Lucas and 18 other people as politically motivated. While police claimed Lucas told police she and a group of people carrying cans of spray paint intended to damage the statues, a dismissal motion by the Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney’s Office said the police had “no proper evidence” for felony charges against the plaintiffs.

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A judge who dismissed the charges Monday also suggested it was improper for the police to bring charges rather than local prosecutors.

Police Chief Angela Greene, who is Black, accused the city of firing her over the charges against the demonstrators. Greene was an at-will employee, meaning her employers were not legally required to offer a reason for her firing.

"I believe I was wrongfully terminated for upholding the law and being retaliated against for sticking to my sworn oath that I swore to serve and protect my citizens, community and keeping my officers safe," she said, adding that she plans to sue the city over her termination.

Several high-profile Democrats hailed the dismissal of charges against Lucas, including former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). "Our hero Louise Lucas and her fellow proud Portsmouth citizens deserve our admiration,” tweeted McAuliffe, considered a likely gubernatorial contender again in 2021. “Grateful this despicable political persecution is over."

Lucas said the dismissal “gives people hope” that "when they come to these courtrooms that they will be treated in a fair and just manner, even though you may have a rogue police department who intends to criminalize the justice system against people like me,” according to The Virginian-Pilot.