Dems press Mattis to rename military bases honoring Confederate leaders
Nearly two dozen House Democrats are urging Secretary of Defense James Mattis to consider changing the names of military installations around the country that currently honor Confederate leaders.
The lawmakers, led by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), argued in a letter to Mattis on Monday that naming military bases and posts after people “who fought against our nation as part of the Confederacy” sent the wrong message on behalf of the U.S. armed forces.
“These designations only serve to promote a dark and divisive time in our history and do not uphold the best of our country,” they wrote.
“In your role as Secretary, we ask that you begin a process to reevaluate the naming of these installations and develop a plan to rename them to better honor the true spirit of our nation.”
The signatories include Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
Thompson’s office listed 10 military installations named after members of the Confederacy, all of which are in southern states: Camp Beauregard and Fort Polk in Louisiana; Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Pickett and Fort Lee in Virginia; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort Rucker in Alabama; and Fort Hood in Texas.
Democrats are pushing multiple legislative avenues to remove Confederate monuments in the aftermath of the violence resulting from a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., this month.
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation on Friday that would require the Secretary of Defense to change the names of any military installation or property run by the department that is named after a figure who fought for the Confederacy or supported the cause.
She and three other New York Democrats previously tried to convince the Army to rename streets at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn that honor Confederate generals, but their request was denied earlier this month before the Charlottesville protests.
Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) and Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) also unveiled a bill last week that would ban the use of taxpayer funds to display or maintain Confederate symbols on federal property.
Various localities around the country have moved quickly to take down Confederate monuments since the deadly violence in Charlottesville. White supremacists had originally planned to gather there to protest the city council’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The city of Baltimore took down four Confederate statues overnight last week, while a statue of the Supreme Court justice who penned the Dred Scott decision was also removed from the Maryland State House grounds.
The University of Texas at Austin similarly removed three Confederate monuments from prominent positions on its campus overnight Monday before students return for the new school year. The university’s president said the statues would be moved to its American history center instead, according to The Associated Press.