NORFOLK, Virginia — The city of Norfolk is taking the fight to the Commonwealth of Virginia over a Confederate monument standing in the downtown area.
The city filed a lawsuit Monday against Commonwealth's Attorney Greg Underwood and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring as defendants.
This follows numerous calls in recent years from activist groups or city council members who have tried time and time again to relocate the monument or remove it entirely.
Just a couple of weeks back, crews removed Jefferson Davis' name from the arch at Fort Monroe -- a move that Governor Northam praised.
The lawsuit challenges the state's law, named the Protection Statute, that protects monuments related to wars and battles, citing that the monument is city property and that Norfolk has a constitutional right to control who can tamper with it or move it from where it stands.
The suit also cites the first and fourteenth amendment of the Constitution as support for their cause.
The monument, located on Main St. and Commercial Place in downtown Norfolk, is a statue of a Confederate soldier that was erected in 1907.
On Tuesday, people expressed mixed feelings about the confederate monument.
Selina Edwards, a woman who works downtown, said the monument should be removed.
"There's a lot of diversity within the city of Norfolk. When we have statues here, I would like to see something positive that represents where we are now, because we’ve grown and developed into a beautiful city," said Edwards.
Another woman named Crystal, who asked for her last name not to be used, said the statue should stay.
"I don’t think that we need to be spending our financial resources on stuff like this. I don’t think we can eradicate history, I just think we can learn from it and grow from it," said Crystal.
Read the full lawsuit below:
Norfolk's Mayor Alexander released the following statement about the lawsuit:
“Less than two years ago, the Norfolk City Council expressed a desire to relocate its monument to soldiers who died fighting for the former Confederacy to a cemetery. A fit that would be more appropriate, given the social fabric that has evolved in Norfolk and throughout the Commonwealth over many decades. This solution also preserves its intent of remembrance.
To date, no decision to proceed has been made because of uncertainty about how specific state laws designed to protect war memorials like Norfolk’s monument might be used to frustrate the effort or, worse, to impose civil or criminal penalties against City officials.
The City has filed a lawsuit in federal district court in order to challenge the constitutionality of these laws.
We contend that the State’s law infringes upon our ability to define our message to our residents, businesses, visitors and tourists. Our goal is to free the City and the City Council from the straitjacket that these statutes create, leaving the decision about where is the best location for Norfolk’s monument up to the good judgment of the citizens of Norfolk and their elected representatives.
While this suit would not result in relocating the statue, it is a necessary step in the process of taking back the sort of local power that the City exercised when the monument was first erected in downtown Norfolk in 1907.”