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Norfolk hopes to move Confederate monument by having state law ruled unconstitutional

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Another lawsuit that hopes to change the placement of Norfolk’s Confederate monument is on the way, this one from the city itself. 

The city’s 80-foot tall Confederate monument has sat on Main Street since 1907. 

“On top of a white, Vermont granite base stands a 15-foot figure of a Confederate soldier,” according to Downtown Norfolk’s website. “The monument commemorates the last reunion of surviving Confederate soldiers.”

Norfolk City Attorney Bernard Pishko announced Thursday that the city would be filing a lawsuit challenging a state law that the say currently prohibits the removal or relocation of war memorials, according to Lori Crouch, a city spokeswoman.

The city plans to argue the state law violates the 1st and 5th amendments. Attorneys will argue the movement restriction violates the 1st because it is based on the content of the monument. The city plans to argue the law is in violation of the 5th Amendment because it controls the use of city property. 

The announcement came on the same day a lawsuit brought by two civil rights activists was scheduled to be heard in court for the first time. 

Roy Perry-Bey and Ronald Green sued the city in March in an effort to have a judge force them to follow through on a resolution passed nearly a year and a half earlier.

“They failed to enforce the law,” said Green. “All we want is the law enforced and for them to enforce the law.”

In August 2017, following the violence in Charlottesville, City Council voted to move the Confederate monument from Main Street to Elmwood Cemetery.

However the resolution specifically stated “as soon as the governing state law clearly permits it.” 

“It is our wish and our desire to move our property,” said Mayor Kenny Alexander on Thursday. “However, we could be held personally responsible for violating state law as council members.” 

Alexander said the lawsuit brought by Perry-Bey and Green led the city to file another of their own.

“We don’t think [the activists’] lawsuit filed was a bad idea. We agree with the spirit and intent of it,” Alexander said.

Yet, Perry-Bey and Green don’t see it the same way.

“There is absolutely no legal basis for why this thing is still standing in the city of Norfolk representing hate and white supremacy,” Perry-Bey said. “Now they are coming around saying we are going to get in front of this case, and now we are going to challenge the constitutionality of it, when you had two years to do that?”

He argues in the lawsuit and opinion by Attorney General Mark Herring and Pishko already has the city in the clear. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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