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Protesters Rally For Local Control Over War Monuments

Rally at Capitol Square
About a hundred people rallied at Capitol Square on the first day of the General Assembly session. (Patrick Larsen / VPM)

VPM Intern Patrick Larsen contributed to this reporting.

Activists turned out on Capitol Square on the first day of the General Assembly session to call on lawmakers to grant localities power over war monuments in their public spaces. 

As the law stands now, cities and counties can install their own war monuments, but must get state permission to move, remove, or make any changes to them. That includes statues to Confederate leaders.

Jalane Schmidt is a religion professor at the University of Virginia and is with Monumental Justice Virginia, which organized the demonstration. She says the group isn’t necessarily pushing to take down monuments, but for recognition of the decisions that communities like Charlottesville have already made.

“Everybody can decide what they want to do,” Schmidt said. “We aren’t forcing it on anyone else. It’s just that the communities represented in the Monumental Justice campaign want local control.”

Dr. Wes Bellamy is the former Charlottesville City Councilman who helped lead the movement to remove Confederate statues in his city - but he says he doesn’t deserve all the credit.

“They think that I’m responsible, for better or worse, for this statue discussion - but that’s just not true,” said Bellamy. “The fact of the matter is that we’ve all been fighting for this in one way or another for a very long time.”

Democratic Del.  Sally Hudson is starting her first General Assembly session this year, representing Charlottesville and Albemarle County. She’s patroning a bill that would allow localities to decide what to do with war monuments. She says for legislators to pass it, people need to speak to them directly.

“It’s my constituents who are still disabled and traumatized from the violence that we suffered. So you come here, you tell those stories.” Hudson said.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D - Richmond) and Sen. Mamie Locke (D - Hampton) are carrying the same legislation in the other chamber. 

Cities and counties from around the Commonwealth have passed resolutions petitioning lawmakers to make the change. Richmond City Council passed one such resolution on Monday.

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