After the controversial gun ban law in January 2020, Democrats legislatures in Virginia are now voting to remove 220 Confederate statues and monuments from public spaces.
States lawmakers approved the legislation Tuesday, Feb. 11, which would give cities and counties the autonomy to “remove, relocate, contextualize, cover or alter” the monuments in their public spaces.
Each chamber advanced different versions of the legislation.
The House version says localities must offer the monument to museums, historical societies, governments, or military battlefields for 30 days before removal.
The Senate version does the same but also has stricter provisions: a historical review, a public comment period, and a requirement that the locality’s governing body must have at least a two-thirds vote to authorize the change.
The House and Senate may next conform the language of the bills to match or advance them to a conference committee that will work out the differences.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, said earlier this year that he supports the idea. He said the monuments “tell a particular version of history that doesn’t include everyone” and “that version of history has been given prominence and authority for far too long.”
The two legislative sessions followed a violent 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Republican lawmakers defeated bills that would have rewritten an existing war memorials law to allow the controversial statues to be removed, according to The Associated Press.
However, in November, Democrats, who took control of the House and Senate, took over the case and passed the measures.
Delegate Jay Jones, who is black, said in a speech Monday that his district overwhelmingly wants a “Johnny Reb” statue removed from a downtown square.
“Every time I drive past it—which is every day to get to my law office—my heart breaks a little bit,” he said.
On the House floor Tuesday, Democratic Delegate Sally Hudson of Charlottesville said her city has been accused of erasing history.
“We’re trying to finally tell it,” she said, noting that the Robert E. Lee statue was dedicated in 1924, amid Jim Crow sentiment. “It honors no battle or moment that took place where we live.”
“(It sent) a clear message to our black residents who had the audacity to organize for equality,” Hudson said.
The measures’ opponents, who compare removing Confederate monuments to erasing history, have raised concerns that the legislation could lead to a push to take down memorials to other controversial conflicts, such as the Vietnam War.
“I do not believe this will end well,” said Republican Delegate Charles Poindexter, who added that the bill sent a “tough message” to every veteran or dead veteran’s family.
Poindexter, of Franklin County, Va., said it should come to a vote of the people in the city, not the representative bodies.