NORFOLK, Va. - Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander released a statement Thursday about demonstrations at the Confederate monument in Downtown Norfolk.
He said, "Across the country people are demonstrating in remembrance of lives lost to police violence and hate crimes. Thousands have participated in the peaceful protests in the City of Norfolk and we hope that this very important dialogue will continue. But it is extremely important that we all stay safe."
Alexander added that because the monument is 80 feet tall, it's not easy to move without a crane. Alexander previously said the Norfolk City Council wants to move it and passed a resolution to do so and will as soon as law permits. In a later press conference, Alexander said the city plans to take the Confederate monument statue that sits atop the monument down in the next 24 hours.
City council has signed off on a plan to hold a public hearing and vote on the monument relocation on July 7. Following that, the city will wait 30 more days to see if a museum, the military or the government want to submit a proposal to take it. The city is not obligated to accept any proposals.
Afterwards, they can begin to move the monument, which at the earliest would be in early August. Their current plan would move it to Elmwood Cemetery.
The monument has been bolted in its current place since the 60s. Crews will begin to start the removal process early Friday morning.
On Wednesday night, someone was seriously injured in Portsmouth when a statue fell on that person as protesters pulled it down. Alexander said, "We are praying for his full recovery and hope that this incident will not be repeated in other localities. Again, in the interests of everyone’s safety, we strongly urge your cooperation in this matter."
He added that anyone who tries to scale the Norfolk monument will be removed for their own safety.
In an interview with News 3 Thursday night, Billie Earnest with the Virginia Sons of Confederate Veterans said he's sickened by the sight of the monuments being destroyed.
Earnest said the group's "first desire would be to leave the monuments just where they’ve been for 100 or more years. He said if they have to be moved, they'd appreciate it "being done in a respectful way and without damage and put them in a respectful place," adding that "the only thing we regret about it is it’s being done in the conditions it's in - it seems like the mob rather than civil authority is deciding when things will be done."
"It’s still against the law to violently tear things apart, and also these are great works of art. There’s a lot of perspectives these monuments could be looked at and nobody wants to that to make them a focal point for disruption," he said. "Now that they’ve been singled out as rallying points of these mob activities, I suppose we have no choice but to move them to a safer place, but we just don’t like being forced to do it rather than negotiating and going through the civil process."
Earnest also added that he thinks Alexander is handling the situation "much better" than Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe and said Alexander is "trying to do something in a civil matter to preserve the monument."