Can Richmond avoid public rows over its Confederate statues?

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tags: Confederacy, Richmond, Confederate Monuments



In Richmond, where good manners have always been a must, officials and residents hope the long-simmering debate over the city's Confederate statuary avoids the incivility seen elsewhere, including in nearby Charlottesville.

There, on July 9th, about 50 members of the Ku Klux Klan marched in opposition to Charlottesville's plan to take down a verdigris statue of Robert E. Lee astride his war horse that has stood in a city park for more than 90 years. Separated from more than 1,000 counter-protestors by a phalanx of city and state police, the Klansmen—many from North Carolina and some wearing the organisation's distinctive hoods and robes—gathered in Justice Park for about half an hour. As the Klansmen attempted to leave, counter-protestors tried to block them. Ignoring orders by authorities to give way, the counter-protestors were disbursed when police detonated three canisters of tear gas. It was an embarrassing finale to a day in which 23 people were arrested.

Richmond, a majority-minority city that was the capital of the Confederacy for most of the Civil War, is looking for a new way to settle an old issue: the future of at least five monuments erected between 1890 and 1929 in tribute to military and civilian leaders of the Southern revolt to preserve slavery.

The city's African-American mayor, Levar Stoney, wants to protect the statues as important historic symbols, but he believes their story must be more fully told to include the black bondage practiced by the Confederacy and the rigid segregation that would be a bitter coda to the Civil War.

Mr Stoney, a 36-year-old Democrat who fine-tuned his political skills as an adviser to Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe, has appointed a 13-member commission to recommend ways to expand the monuments' narrative. That could include signage or additional statuary, both of which are dismissed as sacrilege by Southern heritage groups, such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Advocates for a proposed slavery memorial —Richmond was once the second-largest slave market behind New Orleans—say the statues must come down.





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