Government spending millions to protect Confederate cemeteries: report

Government spending millions to protect Confederate cemeteries: report
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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is spending millions of dollars on security to protect at least eight Confederate cemeteries, according to an analysis published Monday by The Associated Press.

The AP reported that the federal government began spending the money after last year's deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va., where white nationalists clashed with counterprotesters in part over a Confederate monument in the city.

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The VA has reportedly spent around $3 million on private security at Confederate cemeteries since 2017, and it budgeted $1.6 million to fund security at all Confederate monuments in the U.S. for fiscal 2019, which began Oct. 1.

Most of the cemeteries are in northern states where Confederate soldiers were prisoners of war.

Jessica Schiefer, spokeswoman for the VA’s National Cemetery Administration, told the AP in a statement that security is needed "to ensure the safety of staff, property and visitors paying respect to those interred.”

She added that the VA "has a responsibility to protect the federal property it administers and will continue to monitor and assess the need for enhanced security going forward.”

Seven of the cemeteries receive round-the-clock protection, with the eighth being guarded only during daytime hours, the AP reported. There have been no incidents of vandalism since the agency increased security in 2017.

Rep. Bobby RushBobby Lee RushChicago reopens dozens of cold cases with aid of computer algorithm WHIP LIST: Number of Democrats backing Trump impeachment inquiry rises WHIP LIST: Number of Democrats backing Trump impeachment inquiry rises MORE (D-Ill.), in a statement to the AP, said he believes the government "must remain vigilant in evaluating" its spending on security efforts. One of the protected cemeteries is located within Rush's Chicago district.

Many cities across the U.S. have taken a renewed look at how to treat their Confederate monuments and cemeteries. Critics say cities should not commemorate the Confederacy's legacy of slavery, while supporters say Confederate statues memorialize an important part of American history.

Protesters at the University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus in August toppled a controversial monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers.

A June study by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that at least 110 Confederate monuments have been removed in the U.S. since 2015.