WASHINGTON — Following impassioned debate from residents, the Richmond City Council voted 6 to 3 against a bid aimed at giving the city authority to decide the fate of Confederate statues on Monument Avenue.
“These monuments belong to more than just the people of Richmond,” said H.B. Travick, a member of the Society of Independent Southern Historians. “The fate of these splendid monuments should not be placed at the mercy of local political posturing,” he said.
A bronze equestrian statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, erected in 1890, is the largest of the statutes, which also include Confederate Gens. J.E.B. Stuart and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Virginia state law limits the power of local governments to remove war memorials, and Richmond City Councilman Michael Jones introduced the resolution that would have asked the General Assembly to give local communities the authority to determine the fate of its monuments.
“We should have the right to decide, as a locality, regardless if it’s a Confederate statue or a statue of some other figure that we may or may not want up or down,” Jones said in an interview.
If the council had approved the resolution, it was no guarantee that any statue would have been removed. In the past legislative session, the General Assembly rebuffed attempts to surrender its authority over war memorials, including Confederate statues.
Some residents urged the city council to seek control so that the statues could be removed.
“This is a sad night for me,” said Chuck Richardson, a Richmond resident and former member of the city council, who charged that the statues of Lee and others represented white supremacy.
“Every statue on Monument Avenue fought for that belief, and I am ashamed to live in a city where people would rise up to support such beliefs,” he said.