From Monumental Justice:
Monumental Justice Virginia to rally in Richmond
for local control over Confederate monuments
RICHMOND, VA – Members of the statewide Monumental Justice coalition will rally at the State Capitol building plaza in Richmond at 2:30 pm on Wednesday, January 8, to demand that the General Assembly amend Virginia’s war memorials law to give cities and counties local control over Confederate statues. The bill will be introduced in both the House of Delegates (co-sponsored by Rep. Jay Jones, D – Norfolk and Rep. Sally Hudson, D – Charlottesville) and the Senate (sponsored by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D – Bath, with co-sponsors expected to sign on in the coming weeks).
“People in communities all over Virginia want the right to decide how their public spaces reflect their community values,” said Monumental Justice Virginia member Jalane Schmidt, a University of Virginia religious studies professor and local public historian. “Monuments to the Lose Cause of the Confederacy don’t reflect those values.”
The Charlottesville City Council voted in early 2017 to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee that dominates one of its downtown parks, but was prevented from acting on the vote by an injunction in a lawsuit filed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Monument Fund, and descendants of the statue’s donor and sculptor. After a national gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017 to celebrate and “defend” statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson led to three deaths and dozens of injuries, it became crystal clear that localities must be able to act to protect their citizens and remove these statues if they see fit. The city plans to appeal, arguing that the law shouldn’t apply to independent cities, but the new bill will ensure that Charlottesville and communities around the state, can make their own local decisions about Confederate monuments.
Local control of Confederate statues is an important issue throughout the Commonwealth, and organizers expect attendees from across the state. Charlottesville alone will have two busloads of people traveling to Richmond; organizers have reserved a limited number of seats for media who wish to travel with the group to report on the rally.
“These statues were erected in the 1920s, many decades after the Civil War, by white city leaders hoping to intimidate and disenfranchise their African American neighbors,” said former Charlottesville City Councilor and Vice-Mayor Kristin Szakos. “They memorialize the Confederate dedication to slavery and white supremacy, and communities should not be forced to hold that cause up for veneration in these monuments.”
Local control over Confederate monuments has been called for by several Virginia cities and counties, including Charlottesville and Albemarle County, as well as by Virginia First Cities, a coalition of Virginia’s historic cities, and other statewide groups.
Monumental Justice is a statewide movement of Virginians who believe that local communities should be able to make local decisions about the Confederate statues in their public spaces. After a national gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017 to celebrate and “defend” statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson led to three deaths and many serious injuries, it became crystal clear that localities must be able to act to protect their citizens and remove these monuments as they see fit.