Joe Morrissey calls for the removal of Jefferson Davis statue

Published: Sep. 26, 2016 at 2:06 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2016 at 9:17 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond mayoral candidate Joe Morrissey held a press conference on Monument Avenue on Monday to call for removal of the Jefferson Davis statue.

Morrissey called for the removal of the 109-year-old statue, saying it is a "painful reminder" to everyone, especially to those of color. He also said Jefferson Davis was the "leader of slavery."

Standing beside his wife, Myrna, Morrissey says the Jefferson Davis statue isn't the type of symbol Richmond needs - adding that Davis is different than the other confederate era figures peering down on Monument Avenue. Davis was the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

"To glorify a general, who wore the cloth of Virginia, who fought on a Virginia battlefield, who was born in Virginia, is one thing.  But to glorify a politician whose principle cause was the institution of slavery, is a whole other thing," said Morrissey.

Morrissey said he will follow through with the removal of the statue if he becomes Richmond's next mayor, but he said the other statues on Monument Ave. will not be affected.

The Virginia Flaggers called it "a publicity stunt designed to intentionally create division and tension where it does not exist."

Michael Lucas attended the announcement and agrees with the flaggers, saying, "it's political grandstanding, trying to gain a vote and create a problem. Making it worse, dividing us, we need to be brought together."

This announcement comes during the Virginia State Bar's investigation into Mr. Morrissey. It issued a subpoena, which NBC12 collected from Henrico Circuit Courts Monday. This subpoena orders Sensei Enterprises, a digital forensics company hired by Mr. Morrissey, to turn over any and all evidence, including text messages sent between Mr. Morrissey and his now-wife Myrna, back from when she was only 17 years old.

When asked about this investigation, his answer was short.

"Old news," said Morrissey. "Any other questions?"

One other question: could he legally take this down? Morrissey cites a Virginia judge who ruled state law does not protect statues built before 1998.

NBC12's legal expert questions whether Morrissey would actually be able to remove the statue.

Richmond Mayoral candidate Jack Berry sent this statement regarding Morrissey's announcement:

"We should not erase our history just because it makes us uncomfortable. As President Obama said at the dedication of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on Saturday, 'it is precisely because of that discomfort that we learn, and grow, and harness our collective power to make this nation more perfect.'"

Candidate Bruce Tyler said:

"It's important that we rep all aspects of the civil, that is the key to this conversation, we shouldn't glorify one group over another.  The primary focus of this election should not be about the past but should be about our future.  We need to concentrate on our children and providing the proper services in schools that we need for our city to move forward in order to make all of our citizens successful."

Candidate Lawrence Williams said:

"Is this Morrissey's passion or is he just using people to get headline exposure or he may not realize it, self-gratification. If he was passionate he would have a hammer hitting it tomorrow morning. He usually does not get results so why is he leading people with plans they did not help him develop? We should say focused during the next five years on schools, youth development and quality of life. Our youth will be our monuments of success. Morality will resolve itself in just time."

Other candidates for mayor have not replied to NBC12's request for comment.

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