Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam Press Conference on Removing the Robert...

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam Press Conference on Removing the Robert E. Lee Statue

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See below for live video and highlights from Gov. Ralph Northam’s 11 am (moved today from the usual 2 pm) press briefing on the COVID-19 situation in Virginia. Today, it’s all about the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond.

  • Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney kicks things off, says “It’s time. It’s time. It’s time to put an end to the Lost Cause and fully embrace the righteous cause. It’s time to replace the racist symbols of oppression and inequality…with symbols that represent and summon the best in all of all of us…ones that reflect the diverse, inclusive and equitable city we are today…It’s time to heal…Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy…It’s time that we embrace our diversity…remove barriers that hinder the dreams of black children in our community…In the 100+ years since these monuments were erected, we’ve known better…We have two pandemics in this country, COVID-19 and racism. One is six months old, the other is 400 years old…both are lethal, especially for black and brown people…We need to show that black and brown lives matter; this is our moral duty…it’s time to do better. The decision announced by the governor today and the orders I will propose to our city council  to remove all the city-controlled monuments on Monument Ave. signal a new day and for our Commonwealth…I couldn’t be more proud…I thank you, governor, for your leadership, and…all the Richmonders and Virginians, young and old, who have come out…to peacefully protest injustice…We are our history…”
  • Gov. Northam: “Pam and I are proud to live in the city of Richmond.” Thanks everyone “as we chart a new course in Virginia’s history…to be honest about our past and talk about our future…we have to confront where we’ve been in order to change where we’re going…we have fallen short [of many of our ideals]…Those inspiring words and high ideals didn’t apply to everyone…Through 400 years of American history…Black oppression has always existed in this country, just in different forms. THe legacy of racism continues not just in isolated incidents…[but] part of a system…but hearts are in different places…the eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know…So it’s time to acknowledge the reality of institutional racism, even if you can’t see it. Public policies have kept this reality in place for a long time…but symbols, symbols matter too, and Virginia has never been willing to deal with symbols UNTIL NOW…Today, Virginia is home to more Confederate commerorations than any other state. That’s true because generations ago, Virginia made the decision not to celebrate unity, to but to honor the cause of division…the statue of Robert E. Lee is most prominent…Instead of choosing to heal the wounds of the Civil War, they chose to keep them on display right here in Richmond…they needed a symbol to shore up the cause…from the beginning, there was no secret about what the statue meant…a glorification of the lost cause…and as the statues went up, so did lots of new laws…[limiting] the right to vote…the people who wrote these laws knew what they were doing…they wanted the statues to stay forever, they need the statues to stay forever because they wanted to keep the system in place…but elections matter and laws can b be changed…[a new law] takes effect in four weeks,  and then local communities will decide [what to do with statues]; I know Richmond is going to do the right thing.” The state owns the Lee Statue. Think about the message of the Lee Statue. Think about what it says when a young child sees Lee on a pedestal. “In Virginia, we no longer preach a false version of history, one that pretends the Civil War was about state’s rights and not the evils of slavery; noone believes that anymore. And in 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people- not in 2020.” “Yes, that statue has been there for a long time, but it was wrong then, and it’s wrong now, so we’re taking it down.” “I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way,” and “we must take action,” so “I am directing the Dept. of General Services to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee as soon as possible.” “I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from its past. And we all know that our country needs that example right now. America is once again looking to Virginia to lead.” “There are still monuments of inequity that exist in our Commonwealth and our country…but symbols do matter…we all know it’s time, and history will prove it.”
  • Great-great-great-great-grandnephew of Robert E. Lee speaks. From reporter Cam Thompson: “Lee: I know that my name bears some weight here. To those who might be doubting, who may ask that this may not be the right time. When will be the right time? Lee: We have a chance to say that this will not be our final moment and our final stand. Lee: The Lost Cause is dead. A new cause is upon us. On behalf of my line of the Lees, we support you and whole-heartedly commend this act.” “The world is about to turn…this is the start of something incredible…and we wholeheartedly commend this act.”
  • Robert Johns (from the family of Barbara Johns): The Lee statue “is a symbol of hate, bigotry and division.” “We are now walking into a new era of acceptance, respect and inclusion.” It is young people, a new generation leading us. We have so much more work to do, “but this is a great start.” Encourages everyone who’s protesting to *register to vote*.
  • Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax: “Defining moment in history.” Thanks Gov. Northam for “his courageous leadership.”In 2020, this is the “first year of the next 400 years in Virginia and in America…we get to determine who we are going to be as a people…as a country…whether or not we will be shackled by our history…today in Virginia, I believe we are making a downpayment on a new promise to the people of Virginia and America…Confederate monuments include sub-standard schools…a broken healthcare system…substandard housing and eviction rates that are incredibly high…a broken criminal justice system…there is so much more work to be done…” Proud we’ve eliminated Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia. We no longer honor Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson. 400 years since first enslaved Africans landed in Virginia. Tomorrow marks 222 years to the day since his great great great great grandfather was freed. Proud that his children won’t have to grow up in a Virginia and a world that doesn’t value them.
  • AG Mark Herring – Thanks Gov. Northam for his leadership. Past few days have been hard and painful. Have forced white Americans to contront the safety and privilege our skin color affords us. Talks about the “weight of fear” on black Americans is immoral and unsustainable. Noone should have to live in fear that they might be killed for doing routine things like going for a walk. We must dismantle systemic racism and build a country that is far, safe and just for all people. That includes ridding Virginia of “grandiose monuments” to a “racist insurrection.” When people are constantly surrounded by symbols of white supremacy and hate, it reinforces the false and poisonous notion that there’s a hierarchy of races. It’s indefensible. Virginia has 100s of public Confederate symbols. They distort our understanding of history and glorify the oppression and injustice that these men fought a war over. They were erected to suppress the growing civil rights movement and intimidate Black Virginians, and now they must come down. Symbols DO matter. But taking this monument down won’t erase systemic racism – there is much, much more to do. We have a long road ahead of us, but we cannot allow our fellow Virginians to bear this burden any longer.
  • Zyahna Bryant- student in Charlottesville who wrote the original petition to remove the Robert E Lee statue. There will be no healing or reconciliation until we have equity, fully dismantle the system that oppresses black and brown people. It’s no longer adequate to avoid tough conversations, or to walk away from racist dialogue…lives are on the line, the future is on the line. Black Lives Matter.
  • Gov. Northam thanks everyone. Question on specific policy plans re: police brutality. Northam says first step is to realize we have problem, then have people come together and have a dialogue, turn words into action. One step is diversifying police forces. That needs to happen. More interaction with the communities. Techniques such as deescalation. Body cameras.
  • Question why now? Northam says it’s apparent from what’s happening in the country, “there is pain…now is the time to heal…we’re proud of this decision…we’re taking a new direction in Virginia.”
  • Question on expense of removing monuments. Northam – much greater expense when we aren’t inclusive, don’t welcome people to Virginia. Need to let everyone know Virginia is a place of inclusiveness, and “there’s no price to that.”
  • Question on white privilege. Northam – the answer is about education, telling the truth about 400 years of history in this country, both good and bad. Encourages all Virginians to learn about our history, listen to people tell their stories about how hurtful racism and Confederate statues are.
  • Question on the steps to removing the statue. Northam – The bronze part will be removed first and placed in a warehouse. Then discuss what to do with the pedestal, etc.
  • Northam – there’s tremendous pain that’s been going on for a long time, it’s real, was brought into focus by what happened in Minneapolis. Made the decision Tuesday afternoon to remove the statue. Statues need to come down to heal the divisiveness. It’s time to chart a new course of history.  Need to look at the evolution of Black oppression. Slavery was followed by Jim Crow, massive resistance, mass incarceration, pictures of brutality like we saw in Minneapolis…