Setback dealt to Virginians who want local control of Confederate statues

WASHINGTON — A Virginia bill, aimed at giving cities control of Confederate monuments, failed in a state Senate committee this week, dealing a setback to those who want more authority in the hands of local officials and residents.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jennifer Wexton, would have allowed localities to take down or move Confederate statues.

Under current law, local jurisdictions cannot disturb such memorials.

“A lot of folks feel very strongly on both sides,” said Wexton. “What this bill would do is to give the locality, and the people of that locality, the option to have those discussions and debates in the locality itself.”

Wexton, who represents part of Loudoun County, said she brought the legislation forward due in part to concerns raised by her constituents about a Confederate monument outside the Loudoun County Courthouse.

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“Over the past few years, we’ve started to have more discussions about whether that is an appropriate statue to remain there,” she said.

Wexton also cited the events in Charlottesville, where a white nationalist rally turned deadly in August. The rally was centered around the city’s efforts to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

But Republicans on the Local Government Committee threw out Wexton’s measure Tuesday on a party-line vote of 7-6, arguing that the issue should remain at the state level.

“These monuments mean a lot of things to a lot of people,” said Republican Sen. Amanda Chase. “We have people come all over the country to visit these monuments. We should put aside our personal feelings.”

Republican Sen. Bill Carrico asked, “Why would we as a state government allow localities to take those monuments down when it is there for all Virginians to view?”

The decision to kill the bill does not bode well for a similar measure in the House of Delegates that was introduced by House Minority Leader David Toscano. It would give cities the authority to remove or alter Confederate monuments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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