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Norfolk mayor releases statement on Downtown Confederate monument

"Anyone who attempts to scale the [80-foot] monument will be removed in the interest of their own safety," Mayor Kenneth Alexander said Wednesday night.

NORFOLK, Va. — Norfolk's mayor is telling people not to attempt to scale the city's Confederate monument.

The statement from Mayor Kenneth Alexander comes after a man was injured in neighboring Portsmouth after part of that city's Confederate memorial was knocked down by protesters.

RELATED: Man hurt as protesters tear down parts of Portsmouth Confederate monument

"While we welcome peaceful demonstrations at the monument at Commercial Place, we want everyone to understand that the size of the monument, it stands at 80 feet, does not lend itself to safe removal without the use of a truck mounted construction crane," Mayor Alexander said in a statement. "Out of an abundance of caution, anyone who attempts to scale the monument will be removed in the interest of their own safety."

Norfolk City Council has already said it wants to move its 80-foot "Johnny Reb" statue to Elmwood Cemetery, where there are other Confederate memorials. However, the city must wait until a new law goes into effect on July 1, which will allow them to begin the process for removal.

Mayor Alexander's full statement is below:

Across the country people are demonstrating in remembrance of lives lost to police violence and hate crimes.  Thousands have participated in the peaceful protests in the City of Norfolk and we hope that this very important dialogue will continue. But it is extremely important that we all stay safe.

While we welcome peaceful demonstrations at the monument at Commercial Place, we want everyone to understand that the size of the monument, it stands at 80 feet, does not lend itself to safe removal without the use of a truck mounted construction crane. Out of an abundance of caution, anyone who attempts to scale the monument will be removed in the interest of their own safety.

City Council has been unequivocal in expressing its desire to remove the monument. In August 2017, Norfolk City Council unanimously passed a resolution to remove the monument as soon as permitted by state law. During the 2020 Session of the Virginia General Assembly, legislation was adopted, HB1537, that cleared legal hurdles that prevented us from moving forward. This law is effective July 1. On June 2, after our City Attorney presented steps that we must follow for its removal, City Council voted to schedule the required public hearing on July 7 for discussion of removal. It is our intent to remove the statue by August 7, the earliest possible date allowed by law.

Tonight, an individual was seriously injured in an attempt to remove a statue in Portsmouth.  We are praying for his full recovery and hope that this incident will not be repeated in other localities. Again, in the interests of everyone’s safety, we strongly urge your cooperation in this matter.

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