McAuliffe vetoes bill seeking to protect Civil War monuments

(WAVY/Walter Hildebrand)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/AP) — Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a bill that seeks to prevent local governments from moving Confederate and Civil War monuments.

McAuliffe said in his veto message Thursday that communities across Virginia are having “difficult and complicated” discussions about whether to remove symbols of the Confederacy. McAuliffe said he opposes taking away localities’ ability to make those decisions.

Portsmouth City Councilman Dr. Mark Whitaker told Thursday he was happy with the governor’s veto.

“The governor recognizes that land use is a matter for localities to determine,” said Whitaker.

Whitaker also released a statement saying the governor’s veto, “allows socially conscious leader to further address symbolic racism while continuing to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”

Whitaker has been a vocal advocate for moving Portsmouth’s confederate monument to another location.

“Should they be on public property, supported by persons who these monuments represent oppression, racism, terrorism, or should they be something you put in private places, cemeteries,” said Whitaker.

Virginia law already bars local governments from removing war monuments. However, a judge out of Danville recently ruled that the law protects only monuments raised since 1998. The issue was raised during a legal fight over the city of Danville’s removal of a Confederate flag from city-owned land.

Whitaker said he is following the Danville case closely.

A Suffolk attorney who has served as co-counsel on the case out of Danville said he is prepared to prevent the removal of the Portsmouth monument.

Fred Taylor represents groups, such as the local chapter of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.

“As far as the Code of Virginia goes, monuments are still protected, war memorials are still protected, whether they were erected 100 years ago, or whether they were erected 10 years ago.”

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