Pelosi calls for removal of Confederate statues in Capitol complex

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is calling for the removal of Confederate statues from Capitol’s campus, arguing the figures should not be glorified in the halls of Congress.

Pelosi made the request in a letter Wednesday to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the chairman and vice chairwoman of the Joint Committee on the Library, the panel that oversees the placement of statues.

“As I have said before, the halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy. The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation,” she wrote.

Pelosi previously called for removal of the statues in 2017, when she was House minority leader.

“Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals. Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed,” she wrote Wednesday.

Pelosi’s effort comes after the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody, sparking protests around the country and calls for reforms to the criminal justice system, including police funding.

Efforts have been made in a number of locations outside of Washington to remove Confederate symbols, with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announcing the planned removal last week of a massive statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, though that move has been temporarily blocked by a judge.

Statues have also been removed in Birmingham and Mobile, Ala.; Louisville, Ky., Jacksonville, Fla. and Alexandria, Va., Time magazine reports.

Critics argue that removing statues of Confederates and other figures such as Christopher Columbus is an attempt to rewrite history.

Pelosi said she doesn’t want to erase history, but added that leaving the statues in place dignified the actions of the individuals.

“While I believe it is imperative that we never forget our history lest we repeat it, I also believe that there is no room for celebrating the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy in the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol or in places of honor across the country,” she wrote.

“Among these 11 are Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, President and Vice President of the Confederate States of America, respectively, both of whom were charged with treason against the United States,” Pelosi wrote, citing Stephens’s remarks that the foundations of the Confederacy are laid “upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

The Capitol’s Statuary Hall consists of 100 statues; each state commissions two to be displayed in the Capitol.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) is expected to reintroduce a bill to have Confederate statues removed, ABC News reported Tuesday.

Lofgren said she agreed with Pelosi’s request.

“I agree that the Joint Committee and Architect of the Capitol should expediently remove these symbols of cruelty and bigotry from the halls of the Capitol. I stand ready, and call on the Chair of the Joint Committee to swiftly approve the removal of these statues,” she said in a statement.

“The Capitol building belongs to the American people and cannot serve as a place of honor for the hatred and racism that tears at the fabric of our nation, the very poison that these statues embody,” she added.

Blunt said that while he finds states’ decision to move toward removal “encouraging,” he does not believe it’s within the Architect of the Capitol or the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library’s jurisdiction to act. 

“Under the law, each state decides which two statues it will send to the Capitol. Several states have moved toward replacing statues and others appear headed in the same direction,” he said in a statement.

“This process is ongoing and encouraging. As Speaker Pelosi is undoubtedly aware, the law does not permit the Architect of the Capitol or the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library to remove a statue from the Capitol once it has been received.” 

Tags Barbara Lee Capitol Confederacy George Floyd Nancy Pelosi Roy Blunt statues Zoe Lofgren
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