Separate protests converge in downtown Portsmouth following city leaders’ firing, resignation

Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Two groups participated in separate protests in Portsmouth Tuesday afternoon as tensions increased and city officials stepped off positions.

On one side, supporters of Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene came together for a rally at 5 p.m. at the Commodore Theater. It later moved to the Olde Towne Public House.

The group planned the assembly at the same time Portsmouth City Council members met virtually Tuesday afternoon.

On the other side, a group of protesters, who described themselves as concerned citizens fed up with Portsmouth politics, gathered to say ‘enough is enough.’

“Racism lies here in Virginia and it’s time for us to get rid of it,” said Marquise Hunt, a social justice activist and organizer of the second protest for those “fed up” with city politics.

The protests came just hours after Portsmouth City Manager Dr. Lydia Pettis Patton chose to immediately resign ahead of her planned retirement at the end of the year.

The details surrounding her resignation are unclear, but the move comes just a month after Pettis Patton announced her retirement after more than 35 years with the city. Pettis Patton has held the position of city manager since September 2015.

Sources told 10 On Your Side that Portsmouth City Council had planned to meet Tuesday to discuss whether to fire both Pettis Patton and City Attorney Solomon H. Ashby Jr., but not in connection to the situation surrounding Greene.

The council did meet Tuesday, and voted 4-3 to fire Ashby.

Inside the Commodore, protesters in support of Greene cheered the latest development in the ongoing city saga.

“The city manager is gone and rightfully so — she would’ve been fired,” said Tim Anderson, one of the rally organizers. “We have a new manager and that new manager needs to reinstate the chief of police.”

Over the weekend, the same group that held the rally Tuesday in support of Greene organized a “Support Chief Greene” rally after the police chief was placed on administrative leave. A group of about 200 to 250 people gathered Sunday in support of Greene. Protesters say they were there in support of her holding people accountable.

Counter-protesters started marching to the Commodore from Portsmouth City Hall — also at 5 p.m. — to protest the city’s lack of support for certain city officials.

A news release for the second planned protest said City Council members and city officials have “delved into personal matters when it fits their agenda to deride Black leadership.”

“In a city where those in power have struggled with recognizing the value of Black and Brown people, some in elected office has resorted to threatening warrants against the former City Manager and using other egregious tactics to eliminate Portsmouth of its foundation,” the release said.

“It seems as if the decisions that are being made are just for their good ole boy network. Black and brown people continue to be at the bottom here in our city,” said Hunt, who organized the protest.

Hunt called for Mayor John Rowe to be the next city leader to go.

Rowe described council’s decision to fire the city attorney as “getting it right” in Portsmouth.

“We need to get this ship back on course, we need to get it stabilized,” Rowe said.

Hunt said Black leaders in Portsmouth are continuously silenced when they try to speak up. He hopes to see another shakeup at the polls.

“We want to make sure that people in our community are registered to vote, they vet these candidates and they vote right Nov. 3 because we can’t keep doing this,” Hunt said.

Protesters in support of Greene left the theater by the time counter-protesters arrived, but both sides tell 10 On Your Side they’re fighting for the same things: a positive change and a fresh start in Portsmouth’s future.


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