Dem to introduce bill forcing Pentagon to change Confederate base, street names

Dem to introduce bill forcing Pentagon to change Confederate base, street names
© Greg Nash

In the wake of violence at a protest against removing a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, a New York Democrat has announced plans to introduce a bill that would force the Defense Department to rename any military installation or other property named after those who fought for or supported the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) announced that she plans to introduce the bill during a pro forma session Friday.

Clarke has been fighting for the Army to rename two streets at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn that are named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. 

Additionally, there are 10 military bases around the country named after Confederate military members: Fort Lee, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Bragg, Fort Polk, Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Rucker and Camp Beauregard.

“The time has come for the Army to remove from Fort Hamilton and other military installations the disgraced names of men who waged war against the United States to preserve the evil institution of slavery,” Clarke said in a statement Thursday.

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“As recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, have made perfectly clear, these monuments are nothing more than symbols of white supremacy and a pretext for the violent imposition of an evil ideology that should never have persisted into the Twenty-First Century.”

Clarke, along with three other New York Democrats, previously sent a letter to the Army requesting it change the names of Stonewall Jackson Drive and General Lee Avenue at Fort Hamilton.

The Army denied their request, arguing that changing the street names would be counter to the “spirit of reconciliation” in which they were named and that renaming them could be controversial.

“After over a century, any effort to rename memorializations on Fort Hamilton would be controversial and divisive,” Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army Diane Randon wrote earlier this month in a letter to Clarke. “This is contrary to the nation’s original intent in naming these streets, which was the spirit of reconciliation.”

The debate over Confederate monuments has reignited after the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, which started as a protest organized by white supremacists, KKK members and neo-Nazis against the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove a statue of Lee.

Since the weekend, several other cities have moved to take down Confederate monuments.

President Trump pushed back against the initiatives to remove Confederate memorials during an impromptu press conference at Trump Tower on Tuesday, where he also asserted there were “very fine people” among those protesting the statue's removal.

“This week, it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” Trump said.

Several top generals, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, have since publicly denounced racism, saying it has no place in the military.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisEric Trump: My father is 'not playing' on national security NSC to present Trump M deal to arm Ukraine against Russia Iraqi forces retake last ISIS-held town MORE backed up the chiefs during a press conference Thursday.

“These are leaders of our diverse armed forces,” Mattis said when asked about the chiefs’ comments. “They simply said the same message that we have lived by for decades. We continue not to serve in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps; we serve in the United States Army, the United States Navy, etc.

“In that regard, it’s a widely diverse force. We look at ‘E Pluribus Unum’ on our coins, ‘Out of Many, One.’ They were simply emphasizing on the battlefield, we are one team, and that’s the way we stay.”