Posted by Brandon Jarvis
Richmond is starting to garner national attention due to Monument Avenue being the home of multiple Confederate statues. While the opinions of the interested parties varies, they mirror the tensions that have recently swept the country, specifically the Commonwealth. Today, Mayor Stoney released a statement that he is asking the Monument Avenue commission to look into removing the monuments. The original directive he gave the commission was to provide context to the monuments. This set the internet into a frenzy. The Governor, and the two gubernatorial candidates also released statements with their opinions on the matter. The Virginia Flaggers also addressed the statement from Mayor Stoney. See it all below.
Effective immediately, Monument Avenue Commission will include examination of removal and/or relocation of some or all confederate statues
— Levar M. Stoney (@LevarStoney) August 16, 2017
These monuments should be part of our dark past and not of our bright future. I personally believe they are offensive and need to be removed
— Levar M. Stoney (@LevarStoney) August 16, 2017
Mayor Levar M. Stoney Statement on Monument Avenue
When I spoke about the monuments earlier this summer, it was from an optimism that we can take the power away from these statues by telling their true story, for the first time.
As I said in June, it is my belief that, as they currently stand without explanation, the confederate statues on Monument Avenue are a default endorsement of a shameful period in our national and city history that do not reflect the values of inclusiveness, equality and diversity we celebrate in today’s Richmond.
I wish they had never been built.
Still, I believed that as a first step, there was a need to set the historical record straight. That is why I asked the Monument Avenue Commission to solicit public input and to suggest a complete and truthful narrative of these statues, who built them and why they were erected.
When it comes to these complicated questions that involve history, slavery, Jim Crow and war, we all must have the humility to admit that our answers are inherently inadequate. These are challenges so fundamental to the history of our country, commonwealth, and city that reducing them to the question of whether or not a monument should remain is, by definition, an oversimplification.
But context is important in both historical, and present day, perspectives. While we had hoped to use this process to educate Virginians about the history behind these monuments, the events of the last week may have fundamentally changed our ability to do so by revealing their power to serve as a rallying point for division and intolerance and violence.
These monuments should be part of our dark past and not of our bright future. I personally believe they are offensive and need to be removed. But I believe more in the importance of dialogue and transparency by pursuing a responsible process to consider the full weight of this decision.
Effective immediately, the Monument Avenue Commission will include an examination of the removal and/or relocation of some or all of the confederate statues.
Continuing this process will provide an opportunity for the public to be heard and the full weight of this decision to be considered in a proper forum where we can have a constructive and civil dialogue.
Let me be clear: we will not tolerate allowing these statues and their history to be used as a pretext for hate and violence, or to allow our city to be threatened by white supremacists and neo-Nazi thugs. We will protect our city and keep our residents safe.
As I said a few weeks ago, our conversation about these Monuments is important. But what is more important to our future is focusing on building higher-quality schools, alternatives to our current public housing that provide dignity and safety for all, and policies to provide opportunities for all Richmonders to succeed.
The response from the VA Flaggers
The Virginia Flaggers are deeply disturbed that Richmond’s Mayor has chosen to attempt to shamelessly capitalize on the tragedy in Charlottesville by suddenly changing course and directing the Monument Avenue Commission to pursue the removal of the monuments on Richmond’s majestic Monument Avenue as a viable option. Instead of seeking to work with and represent all of his constituents, he has chosen to escalate tensions and encourage lawlessness, such as was witnessed by the violent anarchist Antifa march in Richmond Monday night, and which will certainly be amplified with his announcement.
Mayor Stoney is fully aware that discussion of the removal of ANY veteran’s monument in the Commonwealth is a waste of time as it is a violation of state law and any attempt to do so will cost the city millions in legal fees and damages, while creating division and disunity among her residents. The citizens of the Commonwealth overwhelmingly oppose removal of memorials and the thousands of direct descendants of Confederate veterans are not going to sit by quietly and allow our history and heritage to be dismantled to appease a few extremists.
We call on the Mayor to do the right thing for the community, and what citizens suggested over and over in the public meeting just last week (and which he would have heard had he attended) …leave the existing monuments alone and pursue the development and construction of new monuments in other areas of the city.
Governor McAuliffe Statement on Confederate Monument Removal
RICHMOND – Governor McAuliffe released the following statement on the future of Confederate monuments in Virginia:
“The discussion regarding whether to relocate Confederate statues is an important and legitimate conversation that should take place in each community that contains one. Monuments should serve as unifiers, to inspire us collectively and to venerate our greatest citizens. Unfortunately, the recent events in Charlottesville demonstrate that monuments celebrating the leadership of the Confederacy have become flashpoints for hatred, division and violence.
“As we attempt to heal and learn from the tragic events in Charlottesville, I encourage Virginia’s localities and the General Assembly – which are vested with the legal authority – to take down these monuments and relocate them to museums or more appropriate settings. I hope we can all now agree that these symbols are a barrier to progress, inclusion and equality in Virginia and, while the decision may not be mine to make, I believe the path forward is clear.”
Statement from Dr. Ralph Northam on Confederate Statues
Richmond, Va. — Today, in response to the City of Charlottesville’s decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, Dr. Ralph Northam released the following statement:
“I support City of Charlottesville’s decision to remove the Robert E. Lee statue. I believe these statues should be taken down and moved into museums. As governor, I am going to be a vocal advocate for that approach and work with localities on this issue.
“We should also do more to elevate the parts of our history that have all too often been underrepresented. That means memorializing civil rights advocates like Barbara Johns and Oliver Hill, who helped move our Commonwealth closer towards equality.”
Ed Gillespie’s statement
My opponent now says that he believes decisions about historical statues are best made at the local level, but that they should be removed. I believe that decisions about historical statues are best made at the local level, but they should stay and be placed in historical context. These are legitimate differences, and I know Virginians are engaging in an ongoing, thoughtful conversation about these sensitive issues, one marked by respect and understanding.
From our very founding, Virginia has played a central role in American history. We are home to Mt. Vernon, Monticello and Montpelier. Jamestown, Yorktown, First Manassas, Fredericksburg, Appomattox. The Loving Case, Moton High School, Governor Douglas Wilder.
We have been on the right side of history, and on the wrong side of history. The Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary War, our Constitution, being central to Brown v. Board of Education (Moton High School), electing the nation’s first black governor, and in many other instances, Virginia and Virginians have been leaders in expanding freedom and equality.
But seeking to sustain the evil institution of slavery in the Civil War, denying a woman of one race the right to marry a man of another, opposing desegregation of our schools through massive resistance, are some examples of Virginia and Virginians having been leaders in oppressing people and denying them their freedom.
Our history is our history. Mostly for the better, but at times for the worse, our Commonwealth has been at the forefront of historic events, and Virginians central players in them. I know that for many of my fellow Virginians, statues of Confederate soldiers are offensive and should come down. I know that for many others, they are a reminder of heritage and we cannot erase history by taking them down. In my view, the approach underway in the city of Richmond is a good example for other cities and counties to follow. While not removing statues, they are weighing how to put them in proper historical context.
There is a balance that can be struck here, one that recognizes the outsized role Virginia has played in our history, while acknowledging that we have not always been on its right side. Rather than glorifying their objects, the statues should be instructional. While ensuring that Confederate statues are not exalting them but educating about them, we should do more to elevate Virginia’s history in expanding freedom and equality by extolling the many Virginians who played critical roles in this regard.
Ours is a diverse Commonwealth, with people in different communities holding different values and having different perceptions. Allowing Virginians to work through the sensitive issues surrounding these historical statues at the local level is the best way to do so without inflaming tensions and stoking resentments. Virginians are good and caring people. It was not surprising to me to read in one news report that 90 percent of the torch-carrying, shield-bearing white supremacist and neoNazi mob in Charlottesville on Saturday were from outside our Commonwealth. They essentially invaded Virginia. But Virginia is better and stronger than them. In the aftermath of Hateful Saturday in Charlottesville, I know we can have this discussion about our shared history and how we recognize it in a thoughtful and respectful manner worthy of Virginia.