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AG Mark Herring Believes Some Confederate Monuments Can Legally Be Removed

AP Photo / Jessica Gresko

City officials from Charlottesville will be back in court this week as part of their ongoing effort to remove the controversial statue of Robert E. Lee. But, as Michael Pope reports, they now have a new advocate in their corner.

Unlike many other states, Virginia imposes all kinds of restrictions on local governments. Take removing Confederate statues, for example. The courts are still trying to figure out if Charlottesville has the legal authority to remove that now-infamous statue of Robert E. Lee. And another hearing is scheduled this week. Now city officials have a new advocate: Attorney General Mark Herring is issuing an advisory opinion saying he believes city officials can remove many of those old statues.

Micah Schwartzman is a law professor at the University of Virginia.

“I don’t think it’s clear that the state court will be bound by it. That state court judge may continue to interpret the law as he has before, although I don’t think he shouldn’t. I think the attorney general’s view is persuasive.”

Herring’s advisory opinion says the law protecting war memorials doesn’t apply to most those Confederate statues because they were erected before the law was adopted in the 1990's.

Legal exert Rich Kelsey says that logic is suspect.

“I think it’s a little hocus pocus to focus on a piece of the statue and suggest that somehow this only applies to statues to be erected.”

The outcome in Charlottesville may end up having broad consequences as local governments across Virginia consider removing their own Confederate statues and memorials.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association  

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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