‘I think we’re on sound legal ground': Mayor Stoney stands by decision for immediate removal of Confederate monuments
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says he stands by his decision to bypass the new state law requiring a 60-day administrative process and public input before the removal of Confederate statues.
Stoney gave his first briefing to news organizations on Thursday since the removal of the monuments started Wednesday along Monument Avenue.
Since then, two statues have been removed by the city – the Stonewall Jackson and Matthew Fontaine Maury monuments.
"Although you all know we're removing monuments that I think exemplify hate, division, and oppression, we're going to build these monuments to opportunity right here," Stoney said.
Stoney said monuments of the future could be in the form of schools, including the future River City Academy which is currently under construction off Hull Street.
Thursday morning Stoney met with school leaders and construction crews for a tour of the facility and then spoke with the media regarding the removal of the statues.
He said he stands by his decision to use his emergency powers under the extended state of emergency to remove the Confederate monuments across Richmond, not just on Monument Avenue.
“There are 11 total,” Stoney said. “We have Soldiers and Sailors over in Church Hill, a couple in Monroe Park, and the ones along Monument Avenue; cannons and things of that nature, they will all be removed.”
Stoney said public safety was just one of the reasons to remove these monuments.
“Over the last 34 days we’ve had more than 139 calls for service right there on the on the Monument Avenue corridor,” Stoney said. “It’s my job, my number responsibility to protect life and property.”
Another reason the mayor said it was imperative to remove the monuments was to help expedite the healing process for the city.
“Once we remove the remaining monuments we can officially say we were the former Capital of the Confederacy,” he said. “Now we can be the capital for compassion, capital for equity, capital for atonement and reconciliation.”
However, under the new law passed by the General Assembly in March giving power to localities to remove these monuments, there must be a 60-day administrative process to allow for public input to determine the fate of these statues.
The immediate removal in the City of Richmond was done against the advice of the city’s attorney who was worried about legal ramifications.
“I think we’re on sound legal ground,” Stoney said. “We are in a state of emergency and I believe that these monuments cause a public safety risk to people and property. You never know what the next few days will bring, but we will be prepared.”
The mayor said the remaining monuments would be removed over the course of the next few days, continuing into next week. As for the street names around the monuments, like Lee Circle and Stuart Circle, a city spokesman said the renaming process will include the community’s input through the city’s History and Culture Commission.
Meanwhile, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras announced Thursday a new course called “Real Richmond History” will be offered come the 2020-2021 school year which will include an explanation why the monuments are being removed.
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