Pelosi wants to replace Lee statue at U.S. Capitol.
THURSDAY, JUNE 18, 2020
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The statue of Robert E. Lee on Richmond’s Monument Avenue isn’t the only tribute to the Confederate general that could soon come down.
In a letter to the committee that oversees the National Statuary Hall, where
Lee represents Virginia along with George Washington, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, requested that statues honoring Confederate soldiers and leaders be taken down.
“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,” Pelosi wrote. “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.”
Pelosi’s letter asks the Joint Committee on the Library to direct the Capitol’s architect to “immediately take steps” to remove the 11 statues. Democrats have also introduced legislation to send the statues back to the states that sent them there.
Each state contributes two statues to the Statuary Hall collection, which is open to visitors. Besides Lee, Confederate leaders in the hall include President Jefferson Davis (Mississippi) and Vice President Alexander Stephens (Georgia), among others. Virginia tapped Lee for one of its two statues in 1909.
Dena Potter, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of General Services, said Thursday that the agency maintains the Lee statue since it is state-owned. If it were to be removed, she said, the location for where it would be stored would not be disclosed “for security reasons.”
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker’s office has not been in touch with Virginia officials on the statue’s future. Her letter, dated June 10, calls for the Confederate iconography to be removed from public display until states can replace them.
Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ralph Northam, said Thursday that the governor “absolutely supports” removing and replacing the Lee statue in the U.S. Capitol.
A commission established under legislation filed at Northam’s request set to take effect next month has been tasked with doing just that.
The Commission for Historical Statues in the United States Capitol will make recommendations on if the Lee statue should continue to represent Virginia in Congress and if not, who should replace him. The eight-member panel has until Dec. 1 to issue its report.
“It’s time for us to have a conversation about whether that is who we want to represent the commonwealth today in 2020,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, DRichmond, in February when the Senate approved creating the commission.
Pelosi has also called for the U.S. to rename military bases that honor Confederate leaders, of which Virginia has three — Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett. Northam supports removing the Confederate names from the military bases.
“Just like the statues, these names are divisive,” he said at a news conference last week. “I think most people ... support removing the divisiveness from the names, whether it be posts, statues, the names of streets, whatever.”
President Donald Trump has said he is not in favor of removing the names from military bases.
Virginia contributed the Robert E. Lee statue to the National Statuary Hall Collection on Capitol Hill in 1909.