For 92 years, a statue of Robert E. Lee on horseback has dominated a small downtown park in Charlottesville. This morning, several dozen people gathered in Lee Park to show their support for a new proposal to take it down, and rename the park where it stands.
Charlottesville city councilor Wes Bellamy opened his press conference with a welcome to all in attendance. But things quickly turned tense as a small group of Confederate flag waving protesters from Richmond and elsewhere repeatedly interrupted local residents who Bellamy had invited to speak.
One of them was his fellow city councilor Kristin Szakos, who four years ago, first floated the question of moving the city’s Confederate monuments to a less prominent place.
Szakos said, “We’ve heard from a lot of constituents in the city who have been dismayed for years. And many of them have felt vaguely threatened by the monument, and by the fact that it’s in a city-owned park, and that the city then kind of gives official sanction to that Confederate glorification.”
In the past year, a handful of other southern cities have voted to remove some of their Confederate monuments. And just last month, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have prohibited Virginia localities from doing the same.
Charlottesville’s mayor is calling for a new commission that would study the feasibility of removing not only the Lee statue but the city’s other Confederate memorials as well.