Following a request by Democratic Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser to change and/or eliminate the names of dozens of historical monuments, parks, plazas, buildings, and schools allegedly linked to slavery, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in The Story on Tuesday, Sept. 1, that “none of that is going to happen.”
David Bernhardt, in his dialogue with Fox News, played down the requests made by the mayor to change the names or remove the city’s emblematic monuments, which could have links to the history of racial oppression or slavery in the nation.
“No one will be removing or renaming the Washington Monument or the Jefferson Memorial,” said Bernhardt, whose department manages national monuments, among other things. “None of that is going to happen. It’s just simply nutty, to be frank.”
Bowser authorized a working group to research the names of public institutions and memorials, she claims to ensure that the legacy of the namesake is consistent with the city’s values.
As detailed in a Fox News story, the historical figures targeted by the task force include several former presidents such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Woodrow Wilson. Benjamin Franklin and the composer of the national anthem, Francis Scott Key, were also names that attracted attention.
Bowser promoted the initiative after the violent demonstrations caused by the death of George Floyd on May 25 that shook the country demanding racial equality and defunding and abolition of the police system.
Bernhardt said he believes that despite the sins of the past and that no one is a “perfect human being,” most of the city’s monuments are named after people who accomplished much in U.S. history, so it would not make sense to remove them and forget them.
“Let’s take a step back into reality for a minute and recognize that each of these great individuals did great things,” he said. “No one is saying that each of these individuals was a perfect human being.”
Referring to the destruction of various historical monuments during demonstrations across the country in recent months, Bernhardt spoke of the importance of respecting the value of public property. And he assured that under his administration any crime committed to spaces or monuments administered by the Department of Interior will have serious consequences.
“So the bottom line is, if you commit a crime at Interior-managed properties, we’re going to investigate that crime, we are going to prosecute that crime, and if you are convicted, you’re going to go away for a long time for that crime,” Bernhardt said.