PORTSMOUTH, VA — A man faces life-threatening conditions after protestors in Portsmouth, Virginia partially tore down a confederate statue on Wednesday, June 12, according to Virginia State Police.
Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe Jr. writes in a statement, “We can repair the monument, but an injured body carries that scar for life. We can repair the monument, but we cannot bring back a life—if one was lost because of our escalating the event by the use of force.”
As a video uploaded to Youtube shows, a brass band plays while protestors gathered around the confederate monument at the intersection of Court and High Street in Portsmouth Virginia. The statue was heavily vandalized with spray-paint and protestors began to destroy the monument with sledgehammers.
First, the heads of statues on the monument were knocked off, and then a protestor began swinging at the ankle of one of the four statues. The entire statue fell and landed on a nearby protestor bringing him to the ground. An eyewitness told NBC the man was hit in the head by the statue, which caused extensive bleeding. Protestors soon cleared the area and police rushed in to provide medical attention.
ABC 13 spoke with the wife of the injured man, Chris Green, who said her husband flatlined twice in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Green is now in a medically induced coma.
Green’s wife, Tonieh Brisbane-Green, said she supports the right to protest, “but do it in a peaceful manner. There was no need to do all of that especially while there were so many people around that statue knowing that somebody’s going to get hurt.” Tonieh and Chris Green have two children.
Mayor Rowe states, “It was the goal of the City’s Public Safety Leadership and personnel to keep activity contained to that one area” adding that in Portsmouth, “not one pane of glass was broken out, not one fire set, not one building looted, outside of this one portion of the 400 block of Court Street.”
In the same statement, the Mayor responds to the question of why the police did not intervene in the destruction and vandalization of the statue. Mayor Rowe writes, “What is an abundantly clear ‘lesson learned’ is not to over-react with force,” and that arresting those vandalizing and destroying the monument, “would have required force which would have escalated the event” and possibly spread the injuries and looting to private property instead of being contained to one piece of public property.
In 2017, the Portsmouth City Council voted to permanently relocate the confederate monument to a nearby cemetery once governing laws allowed its relocation. The Mayor states the resolution is still in effect.
In 2020 the Virginia General Assembly authorized the move and specified its process. Part of this process is a public hearing with a 30-day notice. On June 10 the City Council set a date for the public hearing of the monument in question on July 28.
The Mayor clarified at the end of his press release saying, “Please do not interpret this as condoning vandalism, vandalism is illegal.”
The group who organized the demonstration at the confederate monument, Black Lives Matter 757, tweeted a Gofundme page for Greene’s family.
Chris Green, the gentleman in the green shirt was severely injured last night. https://t.co/zIRXQAbvTa
— Blacklivesmatter757 (@BLM757) June 11, 2020
ABC 13 reports Councilman Nathan Clark of Portsmouth saying in a meeting, “I watched several videos today that showed individuals climbing on the monument. If one of those had fallen off onto that new fence that is there and impaled themself and gotten seriously injured or killed, I would believe that the city would have the lawsuit filed against us.”
The protests, riots, and looting following the murder of George Floyd have been the cause of vandalism and destruction of confederate statues across the country.
Today, June 12, Norfolk VA Mayor removed a “Johnny Reb” Confederate Statue citing the Portsmouth incident and potential future danger.
The Virginia State Police is currently investigating Greene’s injury.