Series of bills involving Confederate statues is voted down

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A series of bills to facilitate the removal or relocation of Confederate statues has been voted down after top Virginia Democrats called for Confederate statues to be taken down.

Photo: Cville dog / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

A House of Delegates subcommittee overwhelmingly voted down the series of bills.

A bill proposed by House Minority Leader David Toscano would have modified an existing Virginia law designed to protect war memorials by letting any locality "remove or provide for the upkeep, maintenance, or contextualization of any such monument or memorial located in its public space," regardless of when the monument was erected.

The long-simmering debate about what to do with symbols of the Confederacy was renewed this summer after the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, which is part of Toscano's district. The rally, which descended into deadly violence, was held in part to protest the liberal city's decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

A similar bill, HB 1097, was filed by Del. Mark Levine to allow local governments to relocate monuments owned by localities to a museum of choice, or, if the monument is privately owned, a local government could give the owner an opportunity to reclaim or relocate it within six months.

Wednesday's vote means that the state won't be getting rid of its memorials erected during the Lost Cause movement anytime soon, because another panel already voted down the Senate version of the same bill.

Virginia, where much of the Civil War was fought, is peppered with monuments and other tributes to the Confederacy.

Top Virginia Democrats, including Gov. Ralph Northam, called last year for Confederate statues to be taken down, saying they're seen by many as painful reminders of racial injustice and white supremacy.

Last month, a a poll by the Virginia Commonwealth University found that 49 percent of Virginians favor leaving Confederate statues where they stand, while 46 percent favor change in some form.

Those who want change are split between wanting statues moved to museums, adding context to the current location, or removing them altogether.

Those in western Virginia favored keeping monuments in place by 65%, while only 37% of those polled in northern Virginia held the same opinion.

You can find the full results of that poll here.