Saturday, December 3, 2022

Williamsburg City Council mulls removal of Confederate memorial

The memorial to confederate soldiers and sailors has stood in Bicentennial Park since 2000. (WYDaily/Alexa Doiron)
The memorial to confederate soldiers and sailors has stood in Bicentennial Park since 2000. (WYDaily/Alexa Doiron)

The Williamsburg City Council discussed starting the process of removing the Confederate memorial in Bicentennial Park.

The discussion during a work session Monday afternoon comes less than a week after WYDaily published a story about the presence of Confederate memorials on the Peninsula in connection with cries across the nation to rid cities of those memorials and monuments.

Steve Roberts Jr, the city’s interim spokesman, said earlier this month the council did not have plans to remove the memorial.

“The City Council has made no official decision as of yet,” he wrote in an email at the time. “With the election last month, the City Council is welcoming two new members and City business other than that of working to recover from the pandemic has been hampered the same as it has at localities across the nation.”

But that all changed Monday.

City Attorney Chris Shelton said at the council’s work session, the state’s General Assembly gave localities the option to remove, relocate or contextualize monuments but with some requirements.

She said first the public must be given 30 days notice before a hearing to remove the memorial, then the City Council can decide in 30 days what they would like to do with the memorial before offering the it to museums, historical societies, military battlefield or the federal government.

“The timeline is at least 60 days from the date at which you advertise the public hearing,” Shelton told council members.

Shelton said the council decides the future of the memorial and the earliest date for a public hearing is July 13.

“So the monument was erected in 1908 and it was paid for by public donations at the time it was erected, collected by the Daughters of the Confederacy,” Shelton said about the monument’s history. “I don’t have records from 1908 so the title to the monument is not completely clear.”

Williamsburg Mayor Paul Freiling suggested council members take a few hours to check their calendars before settling on a public hearing date

Vice Mayor Doug Pons said they should select a date as soon as possible.

Williamsburg is the latest locality to start the process of removing a Confederate memorial.

A state work crew in Virginia spent Monday morning trying to figure out exactly how to remove the huge statue of Robert E. Lee from Richmond’s Monument Avenue. State officials say they need some time to plan the removal, since the massive statue of the Confederate general weighs about 12 tons and has been on a 40-foot pedestal for 130 years.

Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the monument’s removal amid sustained protests against police brutality. Richmond city leaders have committed meanwhile to taking down another four Confederate memorials along Richmond’s Monument Avenue. In some cases, protesters are taking it upon themselves to tear down symbols of white supremacy.

Calls to rid cities of Confederate memorials and monuments are mainstays of protests that have erupted all across the U.S.

The demonstrations are spurred by the police custody death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed a knee into his neck.

Four police officers have been charged in connection with the incident.

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Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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