Norfolk civil rights group addresses confederate monument at council meeting

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The United Front for Justice, a local civil rights group, protested Tuesday evening in front of a civil war monument on Main Street in downtown Norfolk.

(WAVY/Joel Hilton)
(WAVY/Joel Hilton)

Organizer Roy L. Perry-Bey told WAVY.com back in June that his group felt the monument should be moved. WAVY reported when Perry-Bey and the United Front for Justice sent a formal letter to members of Norfolk City Council asking for action to be taken.

According to Lori Crouch, spokeswoman for the city of Norfolk, Mayor Paul Fraim directed council to hold off any discussions on the future of the monument, which was erected in 1907, until the council’s two-day retreat in September.

Perry-Bey, however, told WAVY.com Tuesday he feels that council has had ample time to address his letter. He staged what he called a “take it down protest” at the monument Tuesday evening. About a dozen adults and children participated.

“It’s a symbol of hatred. It’s a symbol of slavery. It’s a symbol of hurt. People are still hurting from that,” said protestor Titanya Gaynor.

Old Dominion University associate professor of geography, Jonathan Leib, said protests against monuments like this one have only reached a turning point in recent decades.

“When this monument was put up in 1907, this was in many ways a statement of white supremacy and of white domination of African-Americans in the south, and so there were African-Americans protesting confederate soldier monuments and things like that, but they weren’t taken seriously,” he said.

The group marched to city hall and into the Norfolk City Council meeting, chanting, “Take it down now!” before the meeting began.

About six people spoke in support of removing the monument during the meeting, including Angela Harris of the United Front for Justice, who was surrounded at the podium by several children holding American flags.

“Is this what we want to give our children? Is this the type of thing, is the game that we want to play for our children?” Harris said, addressing the council.

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Fraim said council would discuss the issue, but did not give a time frame for making any decisions.

Frank Earnest, a spokesperson for the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the monument represents every Virginian who defended his state against his own federal government. He said the organization has looked at state law, feels confident the monument will be protected, and has legal counsel standing by.

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