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Portsmouth Mayor says he never gave authority for actions at Confederate monument on day it was vandalized

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Posted at 2:41 PM, Jul 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-04 13:48:29-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe wrote a letter to City Council Friday outlining what he calls "false statements" made by Senator Louise Lucas.

Rowe said he viewed body camera videos from officers who were at the Confederate Monument protest on Court Street the afternoon of June 10.

He said the videos showed the moments leading up to the monument being spray painted just after 2 p.m.

Mayor Rowe claims that Sen. Lucas said in the videos that she had talked with him about what was going on at the monument and suggested that he had given authority to the "actions which followed."

Rowe wraps up the letter stating that he did not speak with Sen. Lucas about the monument on June 10 or before that day. He added that he does not have authority to "direct the Portsmouth Police Department to take or refrain from taking any law enforcement action or to offer permission to anyone to damage the monument."

As for why police didn’t arrest spray-painters from the beginning, Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene said on June 10 that an elected official is to blame.

“There was misinformation given that it was down through other elected officials [not to arrest protesters] was actually the call that was made. So, I had to make some calls to find out exactly where that order was coming from. By that time, there were already engaging in the property damage."

State Senator Louise Lucas shared a Facebook Live video of herself and council member Lisa Lucas-Burke at the protest, but Greene previously refused to name the elected official she says was meddling.

News 3 has reached out to Sen. Lucas for her statement and she said, “I have not had a conversation with John Rowe about anything lately. The last time he and I had a conversation about the confederate monument was in 2017. He was on the phone with Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke when I was on the phone with Dr. Lydia Patton. I was inquiring about the NAACP Officers being arrested and she told me that no one was going to be arrested."

Sen. Lucas added that it is her understanding that Vice Mayor Lucas-Burke has responded to Mayor Rowe's letter.

After the monument was spray painted that afternoon of June 10, someone was injured after protesters ripped off parts of the Confederate monument on Court Street Wednesday night.

A piece of the monument fell on 45-year-old Christopher Green and witnesses told his family Green was trying to get people out of harm’s way when the statue came down on him.

Related: 'This could have been prevented': Family of local man nearly killed at Confederate monument protest speaks out