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Portsmouth City Council votes to relocate Confederate monument

Council members unanimously voted to move the monument from Court Street to another location, possibly a cemetery.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Portsmouth's City Council has taken the next step toward moving what's left of the Confederate monument that stands in Old Towne.

Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to relocate the monument, which has stood at Court Street for over 100 years.

"I want to commend council on a unanimous vote. We're doing the right thing," Mayor John Rowe said after the vote. "And I think that it's important to note that in 1945, Frank D. Lawrence -- one of the icons of Portsmouth history -- voted to move the monument. So tonight's vote is consistent with a vote that took place in 1945. This is the sixth time that we've had this discussion; 'we' being the Portsmouth community that started as early as March of 1927."

Controversy had surrounded this issue in the last few months.

The Portsmouth monument went up next to the historic courthouse on Court Street in 1876. This is where slaves were publicly punished.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly voted to give localities the authority to remove, relocate, or alter war memorials. That law went into effect July 1.

Over the past several months, unrest moved through the country following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. People demanded racial equity and the removal of Confederate monuments.

That unrest boiled over in Hampton Roads. On June 9, Mayor Rowe proposed moving the monument. Later that day, a group of demonstrators covered the statue in sheets, and then that evening, city council held a virtual meeting sharing concerns about damage and safety.

RELATED: Portsmouth mayor releases statement about protest leading to Confederate monument damage

Just a day later, those concerns became reality. On June 10, protests turned destructive as people worked to tear down parts of the monument.

A piece fell on top Chris Green, severely injuring the man.

RELATED: Portsmouth city council approves $250K budget to relocate Confederate monument

On June 24, Portsmouth City Council approved a $250,000 budget to relocate the Confederate monument. That money will come from the city manager's contingency portion of the 2020 budget.

Council members are now trying to figure out where to move the monument. Some possible relocation sites include Oak Grove or Cedar Grove cemeteries, but the city can also hear outside offers to relocate it.