THE FELONY case against Virginia’s most senior Black lawmaker, state Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), is a preposterous example of rogue local police making a mockery of justice.

Almost nothing about the charges against Ms. Lucas, the first African American and female president pro tempore of the 244-year-old state Senate, contains an iota of sense. Portsmouth police brought the charge of conspiracy to topple a Confederate monument without the assent of state prosecutors, which is highly unusual. No grand jury was convened to seek an indictment. The case involves Ms. Lucas making public statements, including to the police. Her statements may or may not have been wise; the idea that they amounted to taking part in a felonious conspiracy is farcical.

If Ms. Lucas committed any offense, it was to stick her nose into a matter over which she had no direct authority, which is more or less a state legislator’s job description.

The incident in question occurred around midday on June 10, amid protests that swept the nation following George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis. Racial justice protesters and community leaders in Portsmouth, a majority-Black city, were intent on covering and defacing a prominent Confederate monument downtown, whose removal had been debated for several years. The monument — an obelisk ringed by statues of four military figures — had been covered by protesters the previous day, without police interference, then uncovered overnight. When two local NAACP leaders returned that morning to re-cover it, they were arrested.

A short time later, Ms. Lucas arrived, identified herself to police and told them, based on a conversation she said she’d had with the city manager, that officers were not to interfere with protesters who intended to re-cover the monument or deface it with paint. She said the same thing to the police chief, Angela Greene, who appeared minutes later at the scene; Chief Greene disagreed.

That night, hours after Ms. Lucas departed, protests intensified, and the monument was defaced and vandalized. One of the soldier statues was pulled down, falling on a protester and gravely injuring him. At that point, police intervened. (The monument has since been dismantled and placed in storage.)

Filmmaker Ken Burns reflects on James Baldwin's understanding of liberty, and how our most venerated monuments can remind us of where America falls short. (The Washington Post)

It was not until Aug. 17, more than two months later, that police got around to charging Ms. Lucas with conspiracy. That was after the local commonwealth’s attorney declined to do so — and no wonder, given the absence of evidence.

Ms. Lucas’s defenders contend that the case against her is payback for her advocacy of tough reform measures for law enforcement. There’s no evidence for that, either. Just as likely, it could be retribution by the police chief, whose resignation Ms. Lucas called for after the monument was pulled down while officers stood watching.

Whatever inspired the charges, it’s absurd. Ms. Lucas had pushed for removing the monument for years, as had many local leaders. Nothing she said on June 10 prevented police from doing their job . To suggest she was involved in a conspiracy is a wild-eyed invention.

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