The destruction of a Confederate monument in Portsmouth, Virginia, in June has caused so much tension that prominent politicians in the state are now being charged with crimes for their alleged involvement in the act.
Earlier this month, The Root reported that Sen. Louise Lucas (D), the highest-ranking elected Black female official in Virginia, was brought up on felony charges for her part in the protest, which ended in the monument being torn down and a citizen being injured in the process. Now, a white Portsmouth resident has used an obscure law to go after the senator’s daughter—who happens to be the city’s vice mayor—for publicly calling for the city’s police chief to be fired.
The resident, Tommy Dubois, alleged that Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke’s public call for the firing of the city’s police chief constituted a misdemeanor crime under an obscure city statute. Dubois appears to have gotten the idea to press the charges from a Facebook group.
Sheriff’s deputies delivered a summons to Lucas-Burke on Monday morning after Dubois filed the criminal case against her with a magistrate judge. In Virginia’s magistrate system, citizens can bring criminal charges against other individuals by making their case to a judge.
Since a magistrate judge signed off on the complaint, Lucas-Burke will have to appear in court to respond to the allegation that her political speech against Portsmouth’s police chief violated the “noninterference in appointments or removals” provision of the city charter. That document gives Portsmouth’s powerful city manager oversight over the hiring and firing of city employees.
According to the Post, Dubois’ decision to bring charges against Lucas-Burke appears to have been prompted by a Facebook page calling for the removal of her mother from her state Senate seat. (Which is wild since Lucas-Burke is accused of interfering in “appointments and removals” for essentially doing the same thing by calling for the police chief’s firing.)
More from the Post:
The guidance on how a citizen could charge Lucas-Burke appears to have originated with Virginia Beach attorney Tim Anderson, who wants to oust Lucas from office and accused her of inciting a riot ahead of the monument’s destruction.
Lucas filed a $20 million defamation lawsuit against Anderson, alleging he knowingly published false information about her and harmed her reputation.
Dubois and other members of the anti-Lucas Facebook group have been accused of engaging in a racist pattern of white opposition to Black people in power. Much of the criticism came after the Virginian-Pilot published a story detailing that pattern and history in the majority Black city of Portsmouth.
Dubois denies claims of racism, citing the fact that police chief and other city officials are also Black. But the issue isn’t just Black officials; the accusation is that Dubois, Anderson and other members of the anti-Lucas group are going after Black politicians who fight systemic racism—a thing Dubois doesn’t appear to believe exists.
“If I didn’t know any better, if I just woke up out of a coma and I watched that press conference, I would think we were living in a time that was 300 years ago,” Dubois said, Huffington Post reports. “They made it sound like Black people had no rights whatsoever.”
“Yes, there is racism in the world, but it’s nowhere near as bad as people make it to be,” he continued. “The race card is played way too much.”
Dubois who—maintains that he’s only going after Lucas-Burke because she “broke the law, or the city charter, which is essentially the law”—said he’s only being accused of racism “because I’m a white with a bald head and I look like a neo-Nazi.”
Join the discussion! The Root is hosting its first-ever, virtual Root Institute, presented by Target, featuring several of the leading minds in our community talking about politics, culture, health, community building and social impact. Subscribe for updates today!