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Making a ‘Monumental’ Change, How the Removal of Confederate Statues Could Affect Richmond

For years now, Richmond has debated whether or not to remove the Confederate monuments scattered throughout the city. After the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia Mayor Levar Stoney sits down with Roben Farzad, host of Full Disclosure, to clarify which statues belong to the city and the state and to discuss the statues and how people can best voice their opinions and concerns.

Episode excerpt

The following excerpt was edited for clarity.

[8:30]

Levar Stoney: Here's the thing, Robert E. Lee, is that monument is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia. We are responsible for the other monuments, okay. So let's say there was an act of vandalism like the one that that occurred the other night. That is a Richmond problem. [Richmond] Would clean the monument and if there was any vandalism we, the Richmond Police Department, are the ones who will be investigating who actually did the crime.

Roben Farzad: If somebody would have wrenched it down though, I do wonder about that. I know it's a loaded [topic,] but I think about it. He's low hanging, it’s been defaced several times.

Stoney: Many times. Here's the thing, we are not nor will ever promote vandalism. We don't want acts of crime to occur on any of the city's properties as well. Do I believe that the monument will send the wrong message? Yes. However, that doesn't mean that they should go out committing crimes and vandalizing properties. I'm totally against that. However, because I believe there is a legal and govern way to find the solution to the removal of Jefferson Davis. I think with the work of the General Assembly, and the work of the city council moving forward that we can get there.

Farzad: How much is kind of what happened in Charlottesville on that terrible day in your mind? You talked about Monument Avenue, which has the monuments in stereo, and you're talking about one or two monuments in Charlottesville and the people who showed up out of state. Suppose you go through all the statutory things to get permission to either contextualize or move down these monuments. I worry about this sometimes, I mean, the people who would descend on the avenue on Grace Street. Is that instructive? And yes, you could study New Orleans or Chapel Hill and other places where the reaction was more muted.

Stoney: For any municipal leader, it should be instructive, right? Because it's, it's not a far off idea. We saw that sort of reality occur just a little over 60 miles away in Charlottesville. I remember where I was. I was watching the whole thing via Twitter and streaming services of what was going on in Charlottesville. Just thinking there are obviously some ramifications and impacts of what happens in Charlottesville, here. That's why I kept such an eagle’s eye on Charlottesville. When it comes to those sorts of demonstrations, in Richmond we experience more demonstrations and protests than any other locality in the Commonwealth of Virginia. So I'm very, very proud of my police department because we know how to handle these sort of events. However, no one wishes those sort of events on their localities. So, moving forward with the potential removal of a monument like Jefferson Davis, we will go through a full checklist of public safety measures. We want to obviously protect one's First Amendment rights, the right to assembly and the right to speech. However, property and lives are our number one priority. And unlike Charlottesville, these monuments are all there right in front of people's homes. This is a corridor down a neighborhood. So they’re my first priority, the people who currently live in the neighborhoods along my Monument Avenue. That's my number one priority over any sort of steel, inanimate object.

 

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