Governors in Kentucky and Virginia make plans to remove confederate statues

Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 7:24 PM EDT
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Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam are in the process of making plans to move statues in their capital cities to what they call a "more suitable location".

During Thursday's COVID-19 news conference, Gov. Beshear responded to a question from a reporter about the statue of Jefferson Davis in the Capitol Rotunda. The governor said the statue has no place there in the location which he said should be welcoming to all Kentuckians.

“I believe the statue of Jefferson Davis is a symbol that divides us. Even if there are those who think it’s a part of history, there should be a better place to put it in historical context,” Gov. Beshear said. “I don’t think it should be in the Capitol Rotunda.”

Meanwhile, an announcement from Governor Northam to remove the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue was met with applause Thursday morning.

He was joined by numerous other state and city officials to announce the plan to remove the statue “as soon as possible.” That could happen in a matter of weeks.

“It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now,” Northam said. “So, we’re taking it down.”

Northam says he’s directing the Department of General Service to put it into storage until he works with the community to determine its future.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney started the news conference by saying it’s time to heal.

“It’s time to put an end to the lost cause; Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy,” said Stoney.

Governor Northam then took the podium talking about the history of the statue in this city. He read a quote from Robert E Lee that said: “I think it is wiser not to keep open the source of war but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife.”

Reverend Robert Wright Lee, a fourth-generation descendant of the Confederate general was also at the announcement. He had previously released a statement in support of the monument’s removal.

The historic decision to remove the statue comes amid turmoil across the nation and around the world over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes, even after he stopped moving.

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus also released the following statement in part:

“The long-overdue removal of the Lee statue is an important step towards honestly and clearly addressing our Commonwealth’s and our country’s past. This removal was an answer to the countless calls from our Virginia communities, our members, and many others to take Virginia into a new, more just tomorrow. It coincides with similar actions, such as with the removal of the confederate statue at Appomattox in Alexandria and with plans to remove the Fredericksburg slave auction block this month. In addition, we must continue to focus on creating a better future by dismantling the systemic racism that still exists across our institutions.”

Not everyone thinks all of this is a good idea. Speaking on behalf of the Virginia Flaggers, Grayson Jennings issued the following statement:

“The Virginia Flaggers are disgusted, but certainly not surprised by Mayor Stoney’s announcement today that he would introduce an ordinance July 1 to destroy the beautiful memorials on Richmond’s Monument Avenue. Against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of citizens and to satisfy the demands of a small, violent group of agitators, he is asking the citizens of Richmond to spend millions to destroy national landmarks in the middle of a pandemic that has wrecked the city’s economy.

Failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and now city-wide vandalization and destruction of property will take a back seat to his agenda to rid the city of any history or heritage that he deems ‘offensive’.

Once called the ‘Grandest Avenue in the South’, Monument Avenue will become a burned-out, boarded-up extension of the rest of the city, adding huge losses in tourism to already precarious financial woes.

We can only hope that there are enough council members who are willing to put the needs of the citizens of the city over the demands of a few extremists and stop Stoney in his tracks.”

The Mayor of Crewe, Greg Eanes, also sent a letter to Northam and Stoney asking that the monuments be moved to his town to help increase Civil War tourism and revenue, which he says his town depends on.