Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, seeks local control of its Civil War monuments

Posted at 4:53 PM, Jan 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-06 16:53:49-05

The city council in Richmond, Virginia, is scheduled to hold a crucial vote on its Confederate monuments during a special meeting Monday evening.

If the proposal passes, the council will petition the state legislature for permission to take down or modify its Confederate statues. Richmond is the former capital of the Confederacy and large memorials to Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee line Monument Avenue a few miles from the state capitol.

Councilman Michael Jones, who is bringing forth the resolution, said his goal was dialogue.

“With removal never being on the table, there will never be a true dialogue,” Jones said.

Virginia state law allows local governments to erect war monuments, but prohibits the local governments from taking them down or modifying them. The law also prohibits local governments from moving the monuments or adding placards explaining why they were erected.

Jones had brought forth earlier versions of the resolution in December 2017 and again in October 2018. The city council rejected both resolutions.

Virginia’s General Assembly flipped to majority Democratic during the last election. The freshman class of delegates will be sworn in Wednesday.

Delegate-elect Sally Hudson represents Charlottesville, the site of the Unite the Right rally in 2017 which resulted in three deaths. The Charlottesville City Council voted to remove Confederate statues, but that vote was struck down in April by the courts.

Hudson plans on bringing forth legislation that would allow municipalities to decide the fate of local war memorials themselves. She sees the right to remove local monuments as an “urgent safety need.”

“I think it’s important for cities to decide what we celebrate. But specifically for our community the statues are a public safety threat,” Hudson said. “Every day we have ongoing echoes of the challenges we faced then, whether that’s further court proceedings that attract a crowd or a lone protester who comes back to revisit the sites.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Councilwoman Kimberly Gray, who represents Monument Avenue, refused to support a “divisive” resolution. A representative for Gray told CNN she was unavailable for comment Monday.

“Slavery was divisive, Jim Crow segregation was, by definition, divisive,” Jones said. “A dialogue is never something that can divide us. It can only bring us together. And that’s what will this resolution do.”