McAuliffe vetoes bill preventing cities from removing Civil War monuments

Gov. McAuliffe vetoes bill preventing cities from removing Civil War monuments
Published: Mar. 10, 2016 at 9:03 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 21, 2016 at 9:10 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill on Thursday that prevents cities and local jurisdictions from removing Civil War monuments.

"It's just a slap in the face of veterans serving and who died for the commonwealth. It's just sad," said Barry Isenhour with the Virginia Flaggers.

Isenhour said House Bill 587 was designed to protect all war memorials.

"It's about American veterans' monuments, which are under assault all over this country and apparently he wants to do it here in Virginia," he said.

Last week, House Bill 587 was passed by both the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates that would allow localities to authorize or erect monuments or memorials to 11 wars or conflicts, including the Civil War, or as stated in the bill, "the War Between the States."

It also barred any disturbance or interference with the monuments or prevent their protection, preservation or care, regardless of when they were erected.

The NAACP sent a letter to the governor asking him to veto this bill saying it was "unabashedly disguised" and "unscrupulously forwarded" to his desk. The letter claimed the bill "is an attempt to praise and glorify what the bill's proponents want to call the "War Between the States" (1861-1865)."

The letter went on to describe the war as "an armed rebellion against the Government of the United States" and "an attempt to continue the unglorified commerce of slavery."

"You know localities in Virginia they need the flexibility to get rid of these monuments and to get rid of these symbols of hate. Localities in Virginia need the flexibility to get rid of these monuments and to get rid of these symbols of hate," said Mike Dickinson, who is running for the local 7th Congressional District seat. "If you wave the Confederate flag, that means you are like ISIS. You are against the United States. Supporters of the Confederate flag say many things, but it stood for slavery. It stood for the bedrock principle that white people are better than black people. It stood for those two things."

McAuliffe released a statement saying:

The rich history of our Commonwealth is one of our great assets. My administration strongly supports historic preservation efforts, including the preservation of war memorials and monuments. However, this legislation would have been a sweeping override of local authority over these monuments and memorials including potential ramifications for interpretive signage to tell the story of some of our darkest moments during the Civil War.

There is a legitimate discussion going on in localities across the Commonwealth regarding whether to retain, remove, or alter certain symbols of the Confederacy. These discussions are often difficult and complicated. They are unique to each community's specific history and the specific monument or memorial being discussed. This bill effectively ends these important conversations.

I am committed to supporting a constructive dialogue regarding the preservation of war memorials and monuments, but I do not support this override of local authority.

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

The governor also directed Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward, the former Mayor of Hampton, to form a work group with the Department of Historic Resources to begin a dialogue and study best practices about how to balance the preservation of history with, what he calls, legitimate concerns many Virginians have about certain types of monuments and memorials.

The measure passed the Senate this week on a 21-17 vote.

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