RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is speaking out about why he's calling for the potential removal of the city's Confederate monuments. Stoney says he's doing what his moral compass tells him is right. This comes after Stoney previously said the Monument Avenue Commission would not consider removing the statues, but instead add contextual placards, revealing a more even view of history.
However, after Charlottesville's violence, Stoney says he sees the statues as a rallying point for hate.
After the mayor's announcement Wednesday that he instructed the Monument Avenue Commission to examine the possibility of taking the statues down, some questioned whether the violence in Charlottesville could extend to Richmond.
"We can never let the possibility of violence stop us from doing the right thing, at the end of the day," said Stoney.
Stoney says after the horror in Charlottesville, he changed his stance to include the prospect of having the monuments removed, if that's what the city's residents and city council ultimately decide.
"After Saturday, we've seen that these symbols have been used as a rallying point for division and hate and intolerance," said Stoney.
However, Stoney was clear that while he thinks the statues should come down, he doesn't think their removal should happen at the expense of schools or public safety.
The Virginia Flaggers, a group which supports the Confederate monuments, says removing the statues is an affront to their heritage.
"We are simply trying to honor the Confederate soldier," said Barry Isenhour, a member of the group.
Removing a war memorial in Virginia is against the law. Isenhour says the Virginia Flaggers aren't planning any counter protests at this time, but he says they are not opposed to future legal action in Richmond.
"We have supported the lawsuit that's going on in Charlottesville, so we'll see," continued Isenhour.
Isenhour also says Virginia Flaggers didn't participate in Charlottesville protest because they don't support neo-nazis or white supremacists, or violence from any side. "You do not want these people down here on Monument Avenue because they don't have the best interests of the citizens of Richmond."
The cost to remove these statues, combined with possible legal fees, could be into the millions. A city council resolution to support the removal of the statues will be introduced next month.
The next Monument Avenue Commission public hearing is September 13th. Both the Virginia Flaggers and Antifa plans to be there.
Also, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer was expected to make an announcement regarding the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, the legacy of Heather Heyer, and the future of public events on Friday, but the event has since been canceled.
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