Charges were dropped against Sen. Louise Lucas, the state's most senior Black legislator, at the request of Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales after determining there was not sufficient evidence to support the elements of the alleged crimes.
Portsmouth police arrested and charged Lucas and 18 others in August with conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in excess of $1,000. The charges stemmed from a June 10 protest in Portsmouth -- a majority Black city -- in which hundreds gathered near the monument as similar demonstrations were occurring nationwide.
Police said the 76-year-old approached officers with a warning: “(T)hey are going to put some paint on this thing, and y’all can’t arrest them," according to charging documents.
“(T)hey gonna do it, and you can’t stop them … they got a right, go ahead!” police claim Lucas said.
Police “informed Senator Lucas that she could not tell people they can do that,” the filing said. “Lucas replied, ‘I’m not telling them to do anything, I’m telling you, you can’t arrest them.’”
During the gathering, the heads of Confederate monuments were ripped off and one statue was pulled down.
Lucas' supporters characterized her arrest as political and racist. A judge who dismissed the charges noted that Portsmouth police went around prosecutors to file charges and tried to prevent Morales from prosecuting the case by trying to subpoena her as a witness, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Police Chief Angela Greene, who is Black, was fired Monday, two months after being placed on leave by leave by then-City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton. A city spokeswoman confirmed Greene's dismissal to Fox News without elaborating further.
"This is a confidential, personnel matter and no further statements or interviews will be provided," the city said.
At a Monday news conference, Greene held up her termination papers while surrounded by supporters.
"I believe I was wrongfully terminated for upholding the law and being retaliated against for sticking to my sworn oath that I swore to serve and protect my citizens, community and keeping my officers safe," she said.
Greene said city officials did not give her a reason for her termination other than she was an "at-will" employee, meaning the city is not obligated to provide one. She said she plans to sue the city over the dismissal.
Lucas, a Democrat who serves as the president pro tempore in the state Senate, praised the judge's move to drop the charges against her.
“This gives people in the community hope that when they come to these courtrooms that they will be treated in a fair and just manner, even though you may have a rogue police department who intends to criminalize the justice system against people like me," she said. "This gives people hope."
Some prominent Democrats also hailed the dismissal of charges, including former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
"JUSTICE IN PORTSMOUTH. Our hero Louise Lucas and her fellow proud Portsmouth citizens deserve our admiration," he tweeted. "Grateful this despicable political persecution is over."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.