The recent months of riots have featured the tearing down or destruction of a wide variety of monuments and statues around the country. Although most of these incidents were caught on camera and gleefully broadcast on social media, frequently by the perpetrators and/or their friends, you never seem to hear about any arrests being made or charges being filed as a result of this destruction of public property. But that’s no longer the case in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Back on June 10th a Confederate monument there was torn down and destroyed. There was no law enforcement action taken at the time, but it turns out that the Portsmouth Police had been collecting evidence and information as they built a case. This week the first fruits of that investigation were announced. A number of people involved in the rioting were being charged with felonies and they included a Democratic state senator and several representatives of the NAACP. (WAVY News)
Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene announced during a Monday afternoon press conference that State Sen. Louise Lucas has been charged with two felonies for an incident at the city’s Confederate monument on June 10.
She, among others, is facing charges of conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in excess of $1,000.
Portsmouth officials held the briefing Monday afternoon to announce that several warrants that have been secured against individuals more than two months after an incident at the city’s Confederate monument.
In addition to state senator Lucas, felony charges were filed against 13 other individuals. These included a member of the Portsmouth School Board, three Portsmouth NAACP representatives and three public defenders. All were charged with either injury to a monument in excess of $1,000 or conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in excess of $1,000. Under Virginia legal code, the injury to a monument charge is a class 6 felony which generally doesn’t carry too harsh of a penalty, though the court can require the perpetrator to pay restitution in the amount of the fair market cost of repair or the fair market replacement value of the monument. Adding the conspiracy charge into the mix, as was done with the state senator, ramps up the potential punishment.
What’s difficult to understand is why we’re not seeing more of this going on around the country. No matter how you may feel about the protests taking place or what side you come down on, the destruction of public property is not a “protest.” It’s a violation of the law and people who engage in such activity are subject to arrest. There are legal ways to remove a monument from public property if the voters of the area no longer wish to have it on display and many cities have been working through those legal channels.
Some of the people being rounded up in Portsmouth are also somewhat “special cases” when it comes to questions of prosecution. When your average citizen does something like this it’s bad enough. But when an elected official such as a state senator is caught red-handed, you’re talking about someone who was placed in a position of trust by the public to uphold the law. Also, three of the other suspects are public defenders. Those are officers of the court. When they elect to engage in such behavior, judges have traditionally chosen to make an example of them.
Judging by the statements coming from the Portsmouth PD, they were able to obtain evidence in the form of pictures and videos of the incident from social media. They’re still looking for other suspects who were involved and have posted pictures of the unknown attackers. Other police departments around the country should be able to do the same, particularly given how much these demonstrators seem to love seeing videos of themselves going viral on social media.
At some point, this current era of unrest and rioting will come to an end. (Well, either that or the country is pretty much over.) At that point, there will need to be an accounting for all of the bad behavior that’s been on display on an almost daily basis for the past couple of months. If the police and municipal leaders can’t be bothered to enforce the laws that are on the books, why should the rest of the citizens feel any obligation to obey the rest of the laws?