Stoney’s Mon­u­ment Av­enue Com­mis­sion re­con­ven­ing

Pub­lic can ob­serve as it dis­cusses its next steps

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - METRO - BY MARK ROBIN­SON

Rich­mond Mayor Le­var Stoney’s Mon­u­ment Av­enue Com­mis­sion will re­con­vene Tues­day to dis­cuss its next steps, 2½ months af­ter post­pon­ing its last sched­uled hear­ing be­cause of pub­lic safety con­cerns.

The com­mis­sion will hold a work ses­sion from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Li­brary of Vir­ginia, 800 E. Broad St., where it will out­line the next phase of its pub­lic en­gage­ment process.

Mem­bers of the pub­lic are in­vited to ob­serve, but the com­mis­sion will not hold a pub­lic com­ment pe­riod.

Stoney formed the 10-per­son panel of aca­demics, his­to­ri­ans and mem­bers of the coun­cil and the com­mu­nity in July. He charged it with rec­om­mend­ing how the city could “add con­text” to the Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues lin­ing Mon­u­ment Av­enue, an ap­proach the mayor said at the time was prefer­able to re­mov­ing or re­lo­cat­ing the mon­u­ments.

The com­mis­sion held one hear­ing in early Au­gust to gather pub­lic in­put. A ca­pac­ity crowd of more than 500 peo­ple gath­ered at the Vir­ginia Historical So­ci­ety to weigh in, and many more were turned away.

The two-hour af­fair was heated, with speak­ers veer­ing from the ques­tion of con­text into the should-they-stay-or­should-they-go de­bate. Speak­ers on ei­ther side of the is­sue jeered oth­ers with op­pos­ing

views, as or­ga­niz­ers tried to keep the event civil.

Days later, white su­prem­a­cists clashed with coun­ter­protesters in Char­lottesville at the “Unite the Right” rally around a statue of Con­fed­er­ate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

One woman was killed and 19 peo­ple were in­jured when a man drove his car into a crowd of coun­ter­protesters. Two Vir­ginia State Po­lice troop­ers died when their he­li­copter, from which they were mon­i­tor­ing the hap­pen­ings, crashed.

In the wake of the rally, politi­cians and in­sti­tu­tions across the coun­try an­nounced, or has­tened, plans to take down Con­fed­er­ate iconog­ra­phy. Stoney joined them, re­vers­ing his pub­lic stance

on the mat­ter and ex­pand­ing his charge to the com­mis­sion to in­clude a con­sid­er­a­tion of mon­u­ment re­moval or

relocation.

A few weeks later, Stoney an­nounced that the com­mis­sion’s sec­ond hear­ing, then sched­uled

for mid-Septem­ber, was post­poned be­cause of safety con­cerns. In Oc­to­ber, the mayor’s of­fice an­nounced the work ses­sion sched­uled for Tues­day. The com­mis­sion has con­tin­ued to ac­cept writ­ten and elec­tronic feed­back through its web­site.

Since the com­mis­sion last met, the city braced for a worst-case sce­nario in prepa­ra­tion for a pro-Con­fed­er­ate rally on Mon­u­ment Av­enue. It spent $570,000 to pre­pare for the event and pay po­lice of­fi­cers and other city staff over­time to work dur­ing the week­end of Sept. 16. The event did not re­sult in any in­juries or prop­erty dam­age.

Last month, the Jef­fer­son Davis mon­u­ment was de­faced with graf­fiti on suc­ces­sive nights. Po­lice have not an­nounced an ar­rest in ei­ther in­ci­dent.

Coun­cil­man Michael Jones, of the 9th District, in Septem­ber put for­ward a pro­posal ask­ing the Gen­eral As­sem­bly to grant the city au­thor­ity to re­move the mon­u­ments. At Jones’ re­quest, the coun­cil has ef­fec­tively tabled the mea­sure, con­tin­u­ing it Mon­day to its De­cem­ber meet­ing.

The mayor’s of­fice an­nounced Tues­day’s work ses­sion in Oc­to­ber. The com­mis­sion has con­tin­ued to ac­cept writ­ten and elec­tronic feed­back through its web­site.

BOB BROWN/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

The Jef­fer­son Davis mon­u­ment was de­faced with graf­fiti on suc­ces­sive nights last month. Po­lice have not an­nounced an ar­rest in ei­ther in­ci­dent.

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