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ACLU to Gov. Northam: Remove Lee Monument in Richmond

aclu virginiaThe ACLU of Virginia today called on Gov. Ralph Northam to remove the Robert E. Lee Monument from Richmond’s Monument Avenue rather than adopting problematic regulations on free speech at the monument’s location, a small “island” of state property in the middle of a municipality.

The following comments were delivered at a public hearing on the proposed regulations conducted by the Virginia Department of General Services.

“The ACLU of Virginia believes that government has an obligation to protect free speech and public safety, and we appreciate the effort being made to balance these responsibilities. At the same time, we were disappointed that the Department of General Services did not address any of the constitutional concerns we raised in the comments we filed in January 2018 on the Emergency Regulations. We have reiterated our concerns in comments filed yesterday on the Proposed Regulations and hope that they will be reflected in any final rules.

“There is, however, one action we believe Governor Northam could take immediately that would resolve these concerns by eliminating the need for these regulations in the first place. The Governor could use his executive power to have the Lee Monument removed from the state property where it is now located. If the Lee Monument were not located where it is now, there would be no need for these onerous (and, potentially, unconstitutional) regulations regarding the use of the grounds surrounding it

“The Robert E. Lee Monument is accurately described in language prefacing the proposed regulations as “a state-property island in an area otherwise regulated by the City of Richmond.” The Governor has authority over state property at the seat of government, and broad authority to dispose of state property deemed surplus, i.e., not needed, by public auction, donation, or, possibly, transfer to the federal government.

“We urge the Governor to show his commitment to racial equity by taking action immediately to remove this towering racist symbol from Richmond’s Monument Avenue. Among other possibilities, he might want to consider donating it to the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park which memorializes Lee’s surrender of his 28,000 Confederate troops and the end of the American Civil War and would provide appropriate historical context for the statute’s display.”

The ACLU-VA also sent formal comments to the DGS objecting to certain provisions of the proposed regulations as being unconstitutional, but believes the regulations would not be necessary at all if the statue were to be moved from its present location.

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