PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Some members of an activist group are calling for the resignation of Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene and a state police investigation after police took out felony charges against more than a dozen high-profile African American community members, including State Sen. Louise Lucas, public defenders, NAACP leaders and a Portsmouth School Board member.
On Wednesday, Aug. 19, Portsmouth clergy leaders held a press conference on the matter.
The conference from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Steering Committee started at the Portsmouth Judicial Complex at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The news conference also aimed to honor the late Congressman John Lewis, with his famous quote, “making good trouble.”
During the conference, the group called for Greene to immediately resign from her position or be fired. Rev. Dr. Milton Blount said there are many unanswered questions about the warrants issued by Portsmouth Police on Monday, Aug. 17.
The group is also calling on Virginia State Police to conduct an investigation into the charges against the 14 people. State police already completed their investigation into the injury of Chris Green, the man severely injured when one of the four Confederate soldier statues was pulled down on top of him. On Monday, Greene said requests were also made for state and federal assistance to conduct independent investigation into the entire circumstances.
“Understandably, these requests fell outside the scope of investigation for those law enforcement entities,” Greene said.
Lucas’ daughter, Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas Burke, spoke during the press conference Wednesday saying she wanted answers for the decisions made by Portsmouth Police.
“I am upset, and it’s not just because it’s my mother, but because I am a member of Portsmouth City Council,” Lucas-Burke said during the conference. “I ask the city manager if she knew about the charges, she says she knew nothing about it. The city attorney didn’t know anything … who is running the [expletive] city?”
Two hours before the press conference, Lucas-Burke copied and pasted an email from Pettis Patton on her Facebook page. The email was sent around 1:47 p.m. Monday to City Council members. WFXR’s sister station independently verified the email’s validity through another City Council source.
The city manager wrote in the email that Greene should not have been involved in the investigation of the incident at the Confederate monument.
Pettis Patton said Greene had declared a conflict of interest at it related to the protest investigation. City Attorney Solomon Ashby also briefed City Council on Greene’s conflict.
The email continued:
“When a city official acknowledges a Conflict of Interest, by law, they must cease all activities on the matter. Otherwise, their participation will likely comprise the city’s interest. After learning of Chief Greene’s acknowledgment of conflict, it was my clear understanding that the city’s Police Department under her leadership would end all involvement in this matter. I was surprised and troubled when I was informed that despite acknowledging a Conflict of Interest, Chief Greene and members of the Police Department continued to be engaged without my knowledge. Proper protocol would dictate that I would have been advised along with the City Attorney of a matter of such significance. I was made aware by Chief Greene while the city’s Police Officers were swearing out warrants in the Magistrate’s Office.
I’m sending this email to make the record clear and complete. No decisions on this investigation or any other matters relating to the Confederate monument came to my attention before August 17, 2020.”
The activist group wants Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales to do whatever she can to make sure the charges “never see the light of day in a courtroom.”
BELOW: Watch the full press Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Steering Committee conference Wednesday.
Greene alleges Morales failed to take action. However, Morales says that is not true.
“My office has an interest in taking all matters seriously. We just don’t sit and say ‘I don’t want to go forward with this and do anything.’ Once we receive a case file we will make a prosecutorial determination and that means if we are able to go forward we will do so,” explained Morales.
Lucas-Burke was joined by several other local officials, including Councilman Shannon Glover and Treasurer Paige Cherry. Virginia Del. Don Scott stepped up to the podium to speak.
“They’re trying to figure out why we don’t want to celebrate and venerate people who would have kept us enslaved,” Scott said. “And now what they want to do is do what they’ve always done and weaponize the criminal justice system against Black leadership.”
While police body camera video does show Lucas telling police that protesters were going to vandalize the monument, Scott says it’s Greene’s failure to arrest anyone for doing it at the time.
Scott alleged police neglected their duties June 10: First, he said, by escalating tensions when they arrested two local NAACP leaders earlier that afternoon then, second, by failing to deescalate the situation later that night.
Lucas-Burke said City Council could vote to fire Dr. Lydia Pettis Patton, the current city manager, if she doesn’t comply with demands to fire Greene. Pettis Patton, however, is retiring Dec. 31 anyway.
On Tuesday, Aug. 18, the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP released a statement saying it is “deeply troubled” by the charges.
“These charges demonstrate the latest pattern of injustice which shows that African Americans [are] subjected to a totally different justice system.”