PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — At the next council meeting, one Portsmouth city councilman hopes to again get the ball rolling on relocating the city’s Confederate monument.
In recent years, calls have grown louder from civil rights advocates for the removal of a 54-foot structure from the middle of Old Towne. Groups such as the Portsmouth chapter of the NAACP have called it a “stain” on the city, saying it represents a hurtful message for African Americans coming downtown.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, leaders in cities like Richmond and Norfolk announced intentions to take action on their respective monuments.
On Tuesday, Councilman Shannon Glover said he plans to ask for a consensus vote from his fellow council members to see if a majority would be interested in moving the 127-year-old Confederate monument once a new state law giving cities the power to do so goes into effect July 1.
“It’s time for our city, the City of Portsmouth to place itself on the right side of history,” Glover, who is also running for mayor, said.
Glover joins Mayor John Rowe and Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas Burke in their public support of relocating the monument from the intersection of Court Street and High Street to Cedar Grove Cemetery, which is just outside Old Town limits.
The plan to do so has been discussed since 2016. That year, the City of Portsmouth went to court to ask for a declaratory judgment to establish its ownership of the monument, which at one time was owned by the Stonewall Camp.
The modern Stonewall Camp #380, Sons of Confederate Veterans filed an objection to the city’s complaint. A judge ultimately ruled in 2018 he couldn’t name the city the owner, simply because no one else was trying to claim it.
At the time, Fred Taylor, attorney for Stonewall Camp #380, touted the ruling as a victory as the group wanted the monument to stay put.
10 On Your Side was not able to speak with Stonewall Camp #380 leadership to see if their feelings have changed.
Calls to the city attorney’s office were not returned Thursday regarding whether they believe they can move the monument under the new law. However, Glover says he is under the impression they are the rightful owners.
Under the state’s law, a public hearing must be held. If the council approves the relocation, private organizations such as museums will have a 30-day window from the hearing to submit a plan of their own. After that, a locality can either agree to give the monument away or move it themselves.
“There will be a timetable and there will a be a process for the monument to move from our city center,” Glover said.
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