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Portsmouth mayor releases statement about protest leading to Confederate monument damage

Mayor Rowe says police didn't intervene while protesters were vandalizing the monument because it could have escalated the situation.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe says there's a reason why police didn't intervene in Wednesday night's protest that led to the defacement of the Confederate memorial in Olde Towne.  

Rowe released a statement on Thursday about the protest, saying it was the goal of public safety personnel to contain the vandalism to the monument.

Police didn't stop protesters from destroying parts of the monument because "such action would have required force which would have escalated the event and spread the vandalism to other blocks of our downtown with more injuries."

Businesses surrounding the monument weren't damaged. However, one man suffered a serious head injury after a statue of a Confederate soldier fell on him. He's now in the hospital under a medically-induced coma.

RELATED: Wife: Man hit by statue at Portsmouth Confederate monument flatlined twice on way to hospital

Demonstrators tagged most of the memorial with graffiti and beheaded the statues of all four Confederate soldiers.

Rowe says there's been a plan to relocate the monument since 2017. City Council members passed a resolution to move the monument, but at the time, state law didn't grant individual cities the power to remove war memorials on their own.

Virginia lawmakers finally did pass measures in February that gave localities the authority to remove, relocate or alter those memorials.

RELATED: Virginia House, Senate pass bills allowing localities to remove, alter war monuments

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RELATED: Portsmouth City Council sets date for public hearing on Confederate monument

Demonstrations like this one are sweeping the nation, with renewed calls to remove other Confederate statues. Some protesters are toppling monuments themselves. 

City leaders in Hampton Roads are fast-tracking plans to remove monuments and some are taking steps to prevent any destruction or vandalism.

Read the full statement below:

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