Debate continues over confederate monuments in Hampton Roads

Should Confederate monuments stay up or be taken down?

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- In reaction to the attack on protesters in Charlottesville a confederate monument in Durham, North Carolina was torn down. Across the country emotions are running high in regards to confederate monuments, many people like Anthony Sawyer are calling for their removal.

13News Now spotted Sawyer in Downtown Norfolk at the site of one of many monuments erected in Hampton Roads.

"The monument itself symbolizes something in the past and its something in the past that this country has moved past," said Sawyer.

After last week when white nationalist groups gathered in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee Sawyer said the monuments need to come down.

"Any argument about having historical significance is lost after this weekend when the people that would actually care about that meaning turned it into meaning something else. Now it symbolizes terrorism. Historical things belong in a museum, a monument is something to be celebrated and something that the people of that area want to celebrate and that's not something that should be celebrated," said Sawyer.

But not everyone feels that way. Councilman Bill Moody, who supports leaving the monuments intact said, quoting Condoleezza Rice,"When you start wiping out your history to make you feel better, it's a bad thing," said Moody.

Old Dominion Univeristy Professor John Lieb who researches Confederate symbols said the monuments were put up in the United States 30 years or more after the Civil War.

"This was a time when many Civil War Veterans, Confederate Veterans were dying off so these were put in courthouses and city squares as memorials to those that were dying. Another reason for these monuments was a symbol if you will of conquerization of white power on the landscape," said Lieb.

Lieb said the debate about what to do with Confederate monuments is not new. However, only within the last 20 years have African Americans been able to argue that the monuments are not heroic symbols.

"This was a time period when Jim Crow laws where being introduced and when African Americans were being disenfranchised and disempowered," said Lieb.

Lieb said there's been conversations about whether the monuments should be put in museums, left alone with signs and plaques given them contextual value or additional monuments should be erected for more recent times. 

Confederate monuments are protected under state law that prohibits the “removal of damaging or defacing monuments or memorials" erected in honor of war veterans. 

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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