Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says in light of recent events, he is now asking the Monument Avenue Commission to "include an examination of the removal and/or relocation of some or all of the Confederate statues."
"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," Mayor Stoney released in a statement on Wednesday. "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."
Earlier this year, Stoney created the Monument Avenue Commission to "help the city redefine the false narrative of the Confederate statues that line Richmond's greatest boulevard."
Here is the full statement from Mayor Stoney:
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.
After Sunday's protest in Richmond, and protesters knocking down a Confederate monument in Durham, there will be an increased police presence surrounding the statues on Monument Avenue because Richmond and Capitol police joined forces to monitor the monuments as a precaution.
As for the Monument Avenue Commission, the next public input meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13 at the Virginia Historical Society at 6:30 p.m.
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