McAuliffe encourages removal, relocation of Confederate monuments

Terry McAuliffe
(AP File Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — Governor Terry McAuliffe is encouraging the General Assembly and Virginia localities to take down Confederate monuments and move them.

“The discussion regarding whether to relocate Confederate statues is an important and legitimate conversation that should take place in each community that contains one,” McAuliffe said in a statement Wednesday. “Monuments should serve as unifiers, to inspire us collectively and to venerate our greatest citizens. Unfortunately, the recent events in Charlottesville demonstrate that monuments celebrating the leadership of the Confederacy have become flashpoints for hatred, division and violence.”

The governor says both the General Assembly and local governments have the legal authority to take down monuments and relocate them to museums or “more appropriate settings.”

“I hope we can all now agree that these symbols are a barrier to progress, inclusion and equality in Virginia and, while the decision may not be mine to make, I believe the path forward is clear.”

McAuliffe had previously said he did not think the monuments needed to be removed. He joins a growing number of elected officials who have called for Confederate monuments to be removed following the violent events in Charlottesville, where white supremacists rallied against the city’s planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Other officials in Virginia have called for the removal of statues and monuments, including Attorney General Mark Herring, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

In a statement, Stoney on Wednesday called for the Monument Avenue Commission to examine the possibility of removing and/or relocating some of the city’s Confederate monuments.

Back in June,  Stoney created the Monument Avenue Comission to “redefine the false narrative of the Confederate statues that line” Monument Avenue.

During a press conference, Stoney explained that the intent of the commission is not to remove the monuments but to “tell the complete story of Monument Avenue” by placing placards nearby giving the context and history of the time in which they were built. Stoney also suggested adding new monuments to the roadway representing prominent figures of color.

On Wednesday, however, the mayor asked the commission to possibly take things a step further.

“Let me be clear: we will not tolerate allowing these statues and their history to be used as a pretext for hate and violence, or to allow our city to be threatened by white supremacists and neo-Nazi thugs,” Stoney said in a statement, which is posted below. “We will protect our city and keep our residents safe.”

The Virginia Flaggers also released a statement in response to Stoney’s announcement Wednesday, saying they are ‘deeply disturbed’ by the mayor’s ‘attempt to shamelessly capitalize on the tragedy in Charlottesville.’

Attorney General Mark Herring said he agreed with McAuliffe.

I agree with Gov. McAuliffe and Lt. Gov. Northam that this is the time for each community to engage in an inclusive conversation on the future of its Confederate statues and monuments. In my opinion, these statues should be relocated to museums or removed. Gov. McAuliffe said it well: these symbols are a barrier to progress, inclusion, and equality in Virginia.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.