Beach preservation commission takes up Confederate monument controversy

The Old Princess Anne County Courthouse Confederate is seen in this WAVY photo taken on Aug. 23, 2017.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A majority of the people who addressed the Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday night were in favor of keeping the statue in place outside the Old Princess Anne County Courthouse.

The commission moved their monthly meeting to the Virginia Beach Convention Center to accommodate the crowd of about 75 people. The commission says just one person attended their August meeting.

Of the 40 people who took to the microphone, 30 of them argued the monument represents fallen soldiers and not slavery.

“It makes me so sad to have a bunch of disrespectful people trying to tear down statues,” Richard Morrison said.

Other speakers old the commission they feel the monuments invoke fear and have become rallying points for white supremacists.

“It has no place on government property that represents all the American people.”

The statue has been in place since 1905.

At Wednesday’s meeting, eight-year-old Tessa Fowler handed over a petition with 200 signatures of people who want the monument taken down. She started the petition with her mom, Kelly Fowler, who helped to organize a rally outside the monument two weeks ago.

There were similar demonstrations over the Confederate monuments in Norfolk and Portsmouth in August in response to the violent clashes at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

“What bothers me is the disregard for the pain of the people of color in the name of heritage,” Kelly Fowler said. “It isn’t right.”

Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson, who also serves as a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, says comprise is possible to make sure everybody’s feelings are considered.

“A compromise is to tell more of a complete story. It might not be totally complete, but right now it’s a one sided story.”

Even some people who say they support the monument said they wouldn’t mind it coming down.

“I want to see the monument come down because it hurts my black brothers and sisters,” said Michael Callahan.

The commission is expected to make a recommendation to the city council after their Oct. 3 meeting. Right now, the Virginia Beach City Attorney’s Office says it’s illegal to remove the statue under state law. The monument is also protected by the city’s Courthouse Historic and Cultural District.