Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) on July 7 will start wheels turning on a push remove a statue of a Confederate soldier that stands in front of the old courthouse in Leesburg.
Until this year, despite fervent debate around the war memorial and despite the fact that it stands on county-owned property, the local government had no authority to remove it. But this year, the General Assembly changed that with a new law that goes into effect July 1. Randall announced in a Facebook post on Saturday that she intends to begin the process to have the monument taken down during the first meeting of the local board after that date.
“Until then, no person should attempt to remove, deface or alter that statue in any manner,” Randall wrote. “To do so could result in legal charges. If that Statue is to be removed, it will be done lawfully.”
It is not the first time she has argued publicly against the statue.In 2017, Randall pushed her colleagues on the previous board to formally support local authority to move war monuments, a vote she lost. Then in 2020, the newly elected Board of Supervisors took it up again,this time supporting that change.
“These are hard feelings to put into words,” Randall said. “I think, if I had to point to one feeling, I think it’s betrayal, because the issue of the Confederacy was [mediated] and fought, and they lost. And we can say that the Confederacy was about the things besides slavery, the Civil War, but it primarily about slavery. And when people say it was about states’ rights, well, it was about the right of some states to own slaves. When people say it was about property rights, it was because slaves were property.”
Even before taking office, Randall pushed for the removal of the statue in public forums and letters to local newspapers since at least 2006.
“It feels like all the things that we are, that make us patriotic Americans, that we talk about—the national anthem, and the flag, and all those things—doesn’t quite apply to me in the same way that its applies to somebody else, and in that is a betrayal.”
The process for removing the statue, if it moves ahead, will follow one similar to many land use decisions the Board of Supervisors makes. The county government must first publish notices in a local newspaper, then at least 30 days later hold a public hearing. After that, supervisors may hold a vote on whether to remove it—typically, in Loudoun, votes are taken at the next meeting after the public hearing, although in uncontroversial cases they often suspend their normal rules of order and vote immediately.
In the case of removing war monuments, the county must then offer the monument for relocation to any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield, although supervisors will make the final decision on where it goes.
Randall said, “all history should be remembered—Not all history should be honored.”
“It is a statue that is a symbol of oppression, and bondage, and hate, and a whole war fought to keep people oppressed and in bondage and pinned down,” Randall said. “And when people say, ‘well why don’t we just put it in context,’ my response is also a WWII analogy. And I say imagine if there was a statue of Anne Frank, and somebody came and put a statue of Josef Mengele next to a statue of Anne Frank because they wanted to put the statue of Anne Frank in some kind of context. The world would be rightly outraged. So the idea that we would put as statue of somebody who had been enslaved beside somebody who had tried to keep them enslaved, would be inappropriate.”
Before localities had the authority to move the monument, the previous Board of Supervisors had moved toward such a contextualization, orderinga report on the history of the courthouse,contemplating naming the old courthouse after a pioneering civil rights attorney, andplanning a new “Path to Freedom” exhibit at the new courthouse planned in Leesburg.