Unrest prompts Virginia Beach to reconsider the future of its Confederate monument

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — It’s easy to miss if you are driving or even walking around the eastern edge of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.

Just outside building 20, the former courthouse building, a Confederate statue stands a few yards from the intersection of Princess Anne Road and North Landing Road near an automotive shop. That spot, now enveloped with trees, is also the location where slaves were traded in what was then Princess Anne County. It’s been there since 1905 as a tribute to the southern men who waged a bloody battle against the country in a war that ended slavery.

“I was not aware we had a Confederate monument until the events in Charlottesville came up. Yes, it’s very easy to miss,” said Virginia Beach Councilman Michael Berlucchi.

But, no one has missed the cries of racism that have been heard around the world following the videotaped killing of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers.

In January, the Virginia Beach Historic Preservation Commission recommended against moving the city’s Confederate monument after a committee called for adding context. That modification would have included lowering the statue, adding an African American statue, and installing historical markers that describe the horrors of slavery.

Now, a member of the statue committee says it’s not enough after witnessing what he calls the Nazi-like brutal killing of Floyd by police.

“That was a Nazi brutality that shocked the world,” said Rabbi Zoberman, who is also a member of the city’s Human Rights Commission. “I would recommend right now to put [the monument] in a museum or cemetery.”

Virginia Beach Councilman Aaron Rouse also calls for the removal of the statue. He skipped this week’s formal city council meeting to meet with protesters. From the floor of council chambers, he called on colleagues to listen to the cries for equality.

“We want to be heard — we want to be valued — I want to be valued,” said Rouse.

Other council members aren’t ready to follow the lead of the governor who promises to remove the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond as soon as possible. The City of Norfolk has also given Johnny Reb, the name of the Confederate statue in the heart of downtown, a moving date of early August. Mayor Bobby Dyer and Berlucchi want to hear from residents first.

“I would like to hear more from citizens about that but I’m certainly not going to stand in the way in the efforts to have it removed,” said Berlucchi.

Dyer is meeting with residents from all corners of the city to listen to their concerns about racial inequalities and how police have responded to protesters. Dyer says she wants to hear from the Preservation and Human Rights Commissions before changes are made to the Confederate monument.


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