Confederate monument in Isle of Wight staying put for now, as board appoints task force to study future

Isle of Wight

ISLE OF WIGHT, Va. (WAVY) — The Board of Supervisors choose not to vote on relocating its Confederate monument Thursday night — instead, it voted to appoint a task force to bring recommendations for an ultimate decision.

The task force, approved on a 4-1 vote, will be tasked with investigating and locating sites for the potential relocation of the monument as well as the way the monument could be contextualized at its current location. A report would be due to the board Dec. 1.

This is the second time the board has deferred making a decision. On Sept. 3 when the county held the required public hearing for a possible war memorial relocation, the board opted to end the physical meeting but still receive comments to allow people to weigh in electronically on account of COVID-19.

In total, 150 weighed in, dwarfing the input received in much larger Hampton Roads localities over Confederate monument relocation. Isle of Wight now also now breaks from the pack as the only locality to take up the issue without voting to relocate.

“We’re not just the norm in 2020, we’re not just a superficial community,” said Chairman Joel Acree, (Windsor District). “If there is an empty lot out there, the children of the next generation need to know why.”

Since the death of George Floyd in May — a Black man killed while in the custody of several police officers in Minneapolis — there has been a renewed push across the county for racial justice. In the South, that movement has increased pressure on governments to relocate Confederate monuments.

In Isle of Wight’s case, theirs has stood prominently at the entrance to the county courthouse complex since 1905. It was placed during the height of the “Lost Cause” movement, according to the state Department of Historic Resources.

Black Americans in particular have labeled monuments to the “Confederate dead” as symbols of oppression. Many those in support of keeping the monument where it is have argued they are truly meant to “honor the dead,” and have no racist intent.

Supervisor William McCarty (Newport District) brought forward the task force idea. The 10-member group will be made up of a representative from each voting district and the deputy county administrator, as well as members from the county’s NAACP chapter, historical society, chamber of commerce and the board’s citizen group.

“I don’t feel like any rush to do anything without allowing the citizens to be apart of the reasoning together,” McCarty said. “I think … it sets an example for change.”

Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson (Hardy District) cast the lone vote against the idea. Jefferson — who is also the only Black man on the board — originally brought forward the resolution to move the monument as he doesn’t feel it should be on public property.

He wanted a decision made Thursday. Upon realizing the majority of board members didn’t intend to do that, he attempted a compromise by requesting a tarp be placed over the monument while the task force did their work.

“It’s still there but everybody is not looking at it,” Jefferson said. “Not removing it, cover it.”

McCarty said while he appreciated the spirit behind the proposal, the move could “produce greater rumor and greater depths of issues.”

In Portsmouth, the “covering” of the monument by protesters the night of June 9 culminated in a destructive demonstration on June 10 in which a man was seriously injured. Charges were eventually brought against nearly two-dozen people, including state Sen. Louise Lucas, (D-Portsmouth) who also happens to represent the area including the Isle of Wight Courthouse complex where the monument stands.

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