The city council in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, passed a resolution Monday to petition the state legislature for permission to take down or modify its Confederate statutes.
Virginia state law allows local governments to erect war monuments, but prohibits the local governments from taking them down or modifying them. The law prohibits local governments from moving the monuments or adding placards explaining why they were erected.
The resolution passed by a vote of 6-2, said Councilmember Chris Hilbert who voted for the resolution.
Under the resolution, the city of Richmond will ask the General Assembly to enact legislation that would give the city control over its memorial and monuments. Large memorials to Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee line Monument Avenue a few miles from the state capitol.
“These statutes are a part of Richmond’s past and we need move to the city forward,” Hilbert said in an interview.
He called the vote “a turning point for the city of Richmond.”
“I think it’s a recognition that we need to expand the dialogue in our community,” he said.
This was the third resolution that has come before the council since 2017.
Councilman Michael Jones, who brought the earlier resolutions in December 2017 and again in October 2018, introduced the latest resolution in December hoping a power shift in the state Capital would bode well for the measure, CNN affiliate WRIC reported.
Virginia’s General Assembly flipped to majority Democratic during the last election. The freshman class of delegates will be sworn in Wednesday.
Jones said he hoped to encourage dialogue with the new resolution.
“With removal never being on the table, there will never be a true dialogue,” Jones said.
“Slavery was divisive, Jim Crow segregation was, by definition, divisive,” Jones said. “A dialogue is never something that can divide us. It can only bring us together. And that’s what will this resolution do.”
Delegate-elect Sally Hudson represents Charlottesville, the site of the Unite the Right rally in 2017 which resulted in three deaths. The Charlottesville City Council voted to remove Confederate statues, but that vote was struck down in April by the courts.
Hudson plans on bringing forth legislation that would allow municipalities to decide the fate of local war memorials themselves. She sees the right to remove local monuments as an “urgent safety need.”
“I think it’s important for cities to decide what we celebrate. But specifically for our community the statues are a public safety threat,” Hudson said. “Every day we have ongoing echoes of the challenges we faced then, whether that’s further court proceedings that attract a crowd or a lone protester who comes back to revisit the sites.”
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Councilwoman Kimberly Gray, who represents Monument Avenue, refused to support a “divisive” resolution.
A representative for Gray told CNN she was unavailable for comment Monday.