RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says he, along with Councilman Mike Jones, will introduce an ordinance to remove all Confederate monuments on city land along Monument Avenue on July 1.
The city has been granted the power to decide what happens to the Confederate monuments on city land starting on July 1, after action by the General Assembly earlier this year.
“I appreciate the recommendations of the Monument Avenue Commission – those were the appropriate recommendations at the time. But times have changed, and removing these statues will allow the healing process to begin for so many Black Richmonders and Virginians,” said Mayor Stoney. “Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy – it is filled with diversity and love for all – and we need to demonstrate that.”
During the protests, the monuments have been spray-painted and served as a rallying point for protesters.
Shortly after Stoney made his announcement, it was announced that Governor Ralph Northam also plans to announce the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument.
After Stoney and Police Chief Will Smith met with protesters on Tuesday to apologize for the police department using tear gas on peaceful protesters at the Lee monument, Stoney committed to taking steps to improve RPD.
“Protestors should always be able to exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully and without threat of violence,” said Mayor Stoney. “That’s your right, and we violated that yesterday,” he said.
Stoney has met with Commonwealth Attorney Colette McEachin, who is conducting an independent investigation into the incident at the monument. Officials said disciplinary action will be taken against officers who violated RPD policy.
“I understand my role, as with any good leader, was largely to listen,” said Stoney. “Apologize from the bottom of my heart, and then just listen to the many young Black men and women who bared their souls to me.”
Tuesday evening, Stoney marched with protesters from the Capitol to the Lee monument.
Stoney spoke to the crowd before the march, making a commitment to enact a crisis alert, also known as the Marcus Alert, exploring the creation of a Citizen Review Board (CRB) and RPD’s commitment to an existing policy banning the use of chokehold.
"The Marcus Alert is named after Essex County Public Schools teacher and Virginia Commonwealth University graduate Marcus David Peters, who was killed in 2018 by a Richmond Police officer while experiencing a mental health crisis. The alert would enable the RPD and Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA) to work collaboratively on calls for service related to persons experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis, with a focus on de-escalation by law enforcement and crisis intervention by mental health experts.
"In response to a recommendation by Peters’ family and in support of ongoing community advocacy in the aftermath of his death, the Stoney administration and Richmond Police Department have been in conversation with RBHA on the creation and implementation of this crisis alert system since 2019. Mayor Stoney plans to engage with the family of Peters in the coming weeks to further collaborative dialogue around the details of the Marcus Alert and how it will operate. The Mayor will then introduce an ordinance to Richmond City Council.
“The Stoney administration is committed to the establishment of a CRB, which should be an entity independent of the police department’s internal affairs and consist of a diverse group of stakeholders. The mayor and Chief Smith are committed to working with the community on the structure and purpose of a local CRB,” the release said in part.
Earlier this year, Richmond also began working on steps to ensure racial equality in its policies and practices.
“Yesterday, I marched with Richmond, for Richmond,” said Mayor Stoney. “George Floyd’s death may have happened in Minnesota, but the shock waves are bringing very valid pain to the surface in our city. Last night, Richmond told me to channel our city’s pain into reform.”
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