Virginia lawmakers move forward with Confederate statue removal bills

Virginia lawmakers move forward with Confederate statue removal bills
The bills that would allow localities to have the power to remove Confederate monuments are moving forward in the General Assembly. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT/AP) - The bills that would allow localities to have the power to remove Confederate monuments are moving forward in the General Assembly.

The Senate passed a measure Wednesday that would allow localities to have control over the war memorials, but it now goes back to the House for review.

The House passed a similar measure, but with substitutions, so that version will need to go back to the Senate.

Since a violent 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Republican lawmakers had rejected renewed calls to amend a war memorials law to allow the controversial statues to come down. But the GOP in November lost full control of the General Assembly, giving Democrats an opportunity to target the statues that critics say distastefully glorify Virginia’s history as a slaveholding state.

The measures would give cities and counties the autonomy to “remove, relocate, contextualize, cover or alter” the monuments in their public spaces.

Del. Delores McQuinn, a Democrat from Richmond who sponsored the House bill, said it would let local communities decide for themselves “how they want to memorialize history, whether it’s right in your face or they want to memorialize it in another way.”

Del. Jay Jones, who is black, said in a speech in February that many of the monuments were erected in the 20th century, decades after the Civil War had ended and during the “throes of Jim Crow.” He said people in Norfolk, his district, overwhelmingly want a “Johnny Reb” statue removed from a downtown square.

“Every time I drive past it — which is every day to get to my law office — my heart breaks a little bit,” he said.

The measures’ opponents, who compare removing Confederate monuments to erasing history, have raised concerns that the legislation could lead to a push to take down memorials to other controversial conflicts, such as the Vietnam War.

“I do not believe this will end well,” said Republican Del. Charles Poindexter, who added that the bill sent a “tough message” to every veteran or dead veteran’s family.

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