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Crews taking down Portsmouth Confederate monument in Olde Towne

Portsmouth City Council members voted in July to move the monument to a different location. Possible relocation sites include Oak Grove or Cedar Grove cemeteries.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Crews started dismantling the Portsmouth Confederate monument Wednesday morning as the city prepares for its relocation.

Last month, Portsmouth City Council unanimously voted on a plan to move the monument elsewhere from where it sits on Court Street. 

Portsmouth NAACP President, James Boyd, rushed to the scene Wednesday morning when he heard the monument would be coming down.

“Today to see this thing come down is... no words really. No words,” Boyd said.

Boyd called the monument removal a big win. This comes after police charged him and several others with two felonies after protests at the monument back in June.

“This is a victory for Portsmouth. It’s a victory for our region, and certainly should be a victory for America,” he explained.

Community members crowded around the metal fencing, watching workers remove sections of the structure.

John Sharrett is with Stonewall Camp Sons of Confederate Veterans. He’s upset about the removal.

“I didn’t want anything to happen to it. It’s a piece of art," Sharrett said. 

Possible relocation sites include a couple of cemeteries in the city, but its next resting place has yet to be decided. The monument will be taken apart and moved to a storage facility for now. Workers say it could take a few hours or a few days to disassemble it.

“Oak Grove is a nice place, out of the sight of everybody,” Sharrett said.

The memorial has been the site of several demonstrations in recent years where protesters have called for its removal. 

Those calls were revived early this summer following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, which sparked a nationwide public outcry against racial injustice. 

“We don’t want to see it reallocated on some spot," Boyd said. "No, it’s time for it to come down and stay down.”

The most recent protest on June 10 took a violent turn when protesters started vandalizing the monument and pulled a statue down on top of a man. As a result, that man, Chris Green, suffered a severe head injury and several parts of the memorial were heavily damaged. 

Once protesters cleared the area, tarps were put over the memorial and city council members met in a virtual meeting that night to discuss their concerns about the damage the monument sustained as well as public safety.

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Council members held another virtual meeting a couple of weeks after the protest where they voted to set aside $250,000 to put towards the monument's relocation.

Those funds would come from the City Manager's contingency portion of the fiscal year 2020 budget.

The most recent fallout from the protest happened when Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene announced that felony charges were taken out against 14 people who allegedly plotted and took part in the monument's destruction in June.

State Senator Louise Lucas, as well as head members of the Portsmouth NAACP branch, a school board member and several public defenders were among those charged.

State leaders, politicians and many Portsmouth community members have rallied in support of those who were charged. One group even called for the Portsmouth police chief's immediate resignation. 

Another group attempted to stage a rally Tuesday night to support chief Angela Greene.

RELATED: Lawmakers continue to show support for Sen. Louise Lucas

RELATED: Group demands Portsmouth police chief's resignation after Senator Louise Lucas, NAACP members charged

Senator Lucas's daughter, Portsmouth Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke was recently charged with two misdemeanors after a resident filed a criminal complaint against her that alleges she violated the city charter.

The charter cites that the council, or its members, cannot call for the removal of a person from office or employment. Lucas-Burke is also on the Portsmouth City Council.

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