Virginia governor encourages removal of Confederate statues

Virginia governor encourages removal of Confederate statues
© Greg Nash

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Wednesday urged local governing authorities around his state to remove Confederate statues following the violence in Charlottesville, Va., at a white supremacist rally over the weekend.

"The recent events in Charlottesville demonstrate that monuments celebrating the leadership of the Confederacy have become flashpoints for hatred, division, and violence," McAuliffe said in a statement first reported by NBC News. "Monuments should serve as unifiers, to inspire us collectively and venerate our greatest citizens."

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McAuliffe called ongoing debate over the statues "important and legitimate" but said that recent events should encourage their removal.

"While the decision is not mine to make, the path forward is clear," McAuliffe added. "I encourage Virginia's localities and the General Assembly — which are vested with the legal authority — to take down these monuments and relocate them to museums or more appropriate settings."

McAuliffe said that the monuments to Confederate heroes like Gens. Robert. E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson are barriers for racial progress in America.

"I hope we can now all agree that these monuments are barriers to progress, inclusion, and equality in Virginia," he wrote.

Virginia is one of many states, including Maryland and North Carolina, where state and local governments are considering whether to remove monuments depicting Confederate history and heroes. In Virginia, a rally against a Confederate statue's removal on Saturday led to violence that left one counterprotester dead and multiple people injured after a man with alleged ties to white supremacist groups plowed his car into a crowd. 

The governor's words echo those spoken by his Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is running to succeed McAuliffe, earlier today.

“I support City of Charlottesville’s decision to remove the Robert E. Lee statue," Northam said in a statement Wednesday. "I believe these statues should be taken down and moved into museums. As governor, I am going to be a vocal advocate for that approach and work with localities on this issue."