Emotions run high at first public hearing on Confederate statues in Richmond

Credit: WRIC 8News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The first public hearing of the mayor’s Monument Avenue Commission descended into a shouting match Wednesday night, with the topic of Confederate statues once again bringing emotions to a boiling point.

Many of the speakers used the forum to debate whether the statues should be taken down — an option that is not on the table.

The auditorium inside the Virginia Historical Society was standing room only as the commission invited the public to voice their opinion on adding context to the Confederate statues.

“I think we can be on the forefront of this,” guest speaker Ann Harper Pitman said. “We don’t have to do what other cities are doing.”

While many cities are voting to take down Confederate monuments, the Monument Avenue Commission is trying to find an alternative. Wednesday night, some said we should add on to what is already in place.

“I think we should have another avenue to really honor African American history that we have ignored, and I think the boulevard would be perfect for that,” Pittman added.

Mayor Levar Stoney has suggested adding plaques to add historical context to the Confederate statues. Some groups, like the Virginia Flaggers, say the additions are unnecessary.

“Read history,” Barry Isenhour with the Virginia Flaggers said. “There’s all the context you need. Just read history. Quit trying to reinterpret history though the21st-century view.”

Barry Isenhour with the Virginia Flaggers. Credit: WRIC 8News

Others argue the statues don’t represent history, but instead represent racism and hate.

“These monuments were installed well after the Civil War in celebration of slave owning war mongerers,” one speaker, who identified herself as Helena, said.

Even though the mayor and commission said the monuments will not be taken down, the topic was still debated.

“Now is the time for us to finally put the past in the past and take down participation trophies for the loosing side of a war,” Helena added.

The crowd both cheered and booed equally for each side of the debate, with the commission left trying to calm the raucous crowd.

“If you want that middle ground, we have to figure out what the middle ground is and I’m interested in hearing what that might look like from you,” commission chair Greg Kimball said.

The next public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 13. Anyone who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting will not be allowed to speak again.