The arrest of Virginia’s Senate president pro tempore is raising suspicions from the state’s top Democrats.
Louise Lucas, the legislature’s top ranking Democrat, who represents Portsmouth, was charged with felony “injury to a monument” and conspiracy Monday, as were the city’s NAACP president and vice president, a school board member, and four others. The charges stemmed from a June protest where protesters tore down a statue of a Confederate soldier, though it’s unclear if Lucas played a role in taking it down, per local station WAVY.
The timing of the arrest raised questions from Virginia House Rep. Lee Carter (D), given that the state legislature was set to reconvene this week for a special session on criminal justice reform. Virginia’s constitution bars the arrest of General Assembly members during or 15 days before their sessions, except for “treason, felony, or breach of the peace.”
If you’re wondering why they dug up an obscure crime like “conspiracy to commit injury to a monument,” it’s because they need a felony to arrest a Senator within 15 days of a session.
It’s not supposed to stick. The purpose is to prevent her from voting to rein in the cops. https://t.co/RRNHq4EDIo
— Lee J. Carter (@carterforva) August 17, 2020
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) echoed Carter’s suspicion.
It’s deeply troubling that on the verge of Virginia passing long-overdue police reform, the first Black woman to serve as our Senate Pro Tempore is suddenly facing highly unusual charges.@SenLouiseLucas, I look forward to seeing you in Richmond tomorrow—so we can get to work. https://t.co/flI9W5HnYH
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) August 17, 2020
Virginia lawmakers this week will consider a change to “a law that allows police to charge people with felony assault even if the arresting officers are not seriously hurt,” The Virginian-Pilot reports. Bills to bar police from using chokeholds and no-knock warrants, to make it easier to expunge criminal records, and to eliminate jury sentencing are also on the docket this week.
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