A state Senate committee has defeated a bill that would have made it easier for local governments in Virginia to dismantle Confederate monuments. As the country continues to reckon its history of racist violence and the symbols that commemorate it, the decision may be seen as tempering some of Virginia’s recent hard-won progress in the removal of the statues.
The former capital of the Confederacy, Virginia is the state with the most monuments to the pro-slavery government, but according to some analyses, the state leads the US in their removal. Local governments in Virginia’s cities and counties did not have the authority to remove war monuments until this year. After Democrats took control of both the state House and Senate in 2019, they gave localities permission to dismantle Confederate statues.
A now-scrapped bill proposed by Democratic Delegate Delores L. McQuinn would have removed additional hurdles still faced by local governments, including requirements that localities observe two 30-day waiting periods and provide public notice before altering or removing statues.
At the height of Black Lives Matter protests this summer, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney ordered the immediate removal of all remaining Confederate statues in the state’s capital. The move was condemned by some conservative critics, who said the mayor had bypassed these procedural requirements.
Invoking his emergency powers, Stoney argued that the monuments posed a threat to public safety, as protesters’ attempts at dismantling them could result in injury or encourage large gatherings that may spread the coronavirus. Only one Confederate statue, of General A.P. Hill, remained on city property by the time Stoney’s order was temporarily blocked by a Richmond judge. The injunction was lifted last month, a victory for the mayor.
Delegate McQuinn’s bill’s passed the state House last month with a vote of 54 to 43, but the Senate committee voted unanimously to kill it this Monday. Some senators had raised concerns over eliminating the 60-day waiting period. McQuinn plans to present a revised form of the bill in January.
Democratic Delegate Lamont Bagby, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, told the Washington Post that the vote was “disappointing.”
“I just hope the individuals that opposed it in the Senate have the courage when it’s time to address it in January,” he said.
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