The debate in Charlottesville over whether to remove and sell a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, that culminated in violent clashes Saturday, may surface here in Loudoun.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said she has heard concerns about the location of the monument in Leesburg. The statue is a memorial to Loudoun County’s Confederate soldiers and stands tall on the County Courthouse lawn in downtown Leesburg.
“For nearly a decade the question of the appropriateness of the Confederate Statue at the Leesburg Courthouse has arisen,” Loudoun Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) wrote in a press release. “Following the events in Charlottesville that resulted in the tragic death of three people, I know and appreciate that emotions around these issues are high. This is why it is important to have an open, respectful, inclusive dialogue.”
Randall pointed out a Virginia law restricts localities’ ability to taking down war monuments. Charlottesville’s own attempt to remove its statue is currently hung up in court over that law.
“This fall it is my intention to place in Loudoun’s Legislative Agenda an item that allows a locality greater discretion over Monuments and Memorials in its individual jurisdiction,” Randall wrote, pointing out that will need approval from the full Board of Supervisors.
State Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33) told Loudoun Now this week that she would “absolutely” carry a bill that would give local jurisdictions the right to take down war monuments, if they so desire.
“I always feel it’s better to give more discretion and power to localities,” she said. She added that it is “hypocritical” that Republicans in control of the state legislature often say they want government closer to the people, but don’t follow through when a local government makes a decision they disagree with. “I think local officials are in a better place to decide what’s appropriate on their local property.”
This is far from a new issue in the commonwealth.
Last year, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a bill that would have made the law on the books stricter. The current law prohibits local governments from removing or modifying war monuments, although a Circuit Court judge in Danville ruled that the law applied only to those that were erected after 1998. Legislation introduced by a delegate from southern Virginia, vetoed by the governor, would have applied to all Virginia monuments, no matter the year they were created.