Monuments dominate Virginia’s headlines this week.
On Wednesday, the city of Portsmouth began removing its controversial Confederate monument. Last week, an anonymous plaintiff petitioned the Virginia Supreme Court to order the city of Richmond to reinstall its Confederate statues. The Richmond Circuit Court has scheduled a trial to begin determining whether Richmond’s Robert E. Lee statue can be removed.
Although the Portsmouth City Council decided in July to put their monument in storage, they had not announced when that process would begin. A crane was visible at the site on Wednesday morning. The City Council allocated $250,000 to remove the monument, according to WAVY.com.
An anonymous plaintiff wants Richmond to put its Confederate monuments back up. The petition was filed in the Virginia Supreme Court. It alleges that Mayor Levar Stoney and city officials over-reached the mayor’s emergency powers, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Richmond’s famous Robert E. Lee statue has remained in place, since the land and the statue actually belong to the state, not the city. Although state officials want to remove the statue, a lawsuit from local residents has blocked those efforts. Monument Avenue residents say property values will go down when the historic monuments are removed. The Richmond Circuit Court scheduled an October 19 trial for the lawsuit, although experts told the Richmond-Times Dispatch that the Lee statue will probably not come down until 2021.
Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D) told The Star that Confederate monuments are symbols of inequality. Fairfax said they often stand in public squares and in front of courthouses, places that should be places of unity and justice. Fairfax said the monuments come from a time period of great injustice.
“I think that these are relics of that time and indicators of that history. They don’t deserve a place in the public square,” Fairfax said.
Fairfax doesn’t want change to stop with stone monuments.
“I also believe we have to take down the living monuments to racial oppression in the form of our sub-standard educational system and schools around the commonwealth, our substandard housing, and also our inequalities in healthcare and economic opportunities,” he said.
Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) said leaving the monuments up is critical for protecting free speech.
“People need to take the emotionalism out of it,” she said.
Chase said removing monuments is censorship of history. Chase recognizes that the monuments are symbols, but said they symbolize different things to different people. Chase said tolerance to different perspectives on the monuments is the way forward.
Chase added, “At what point do we start looking at symbols like crosses on steeples at churches and say, ‘Well that offends me’?”
If the monuments must come down, Chase said to use the processes created by laws recently passed in the General Assembly.
“I don’t support it,” Chase said. “I think the monuments should go back up, I think we’re doing ourselves irreparable harm by taking them down.”
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