‘Statues are a part of history’

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Following Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s announcement Aug. 16 where he encouraged discussions to take place in the state regarding taking down Confederate statues and relocating them to museums or more appropriate settings, members of Lunenburg County are sounding off with their opinions about the governor’s statement.

Rehoboth District Supervisor and Board Chairman Charles R. Slayton, who prefers the Confederate statue at Lunenburg Courthouse remain where it is, said there hasn’t been discussion regarding removing or relocating statues among members of the board of supervisors.

“My opinion is that statues are a part of history and I think it should stay there,” Slayton said. “That’s my opinion. If it came to a vote, I’d vote we should leave it where it is. I don’t know whether it’ll come up to a vote or not, but statues are a part of history.”

He said if people came to a board of supervisors’ meeting and objected the statue being located there, then the board would deal with it.

“If not, then we probably won’t do anything,” Slayton said.

McAuliffe’s announcement came in response to violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of three people Aug. 12.

Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a 20-year-old Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., drove a car into a crowd of counter protesters. Fields

injured 19 others. Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of the Virginia State Police also died when the helicopter they were using to assist in patrolling the protests crashed outside of Charlottesville.

McAuliffe said he hoped “we can all now agree that these symbols are a barrier to progress, inclusion and equality in Virginia and, while the decision may not be mine to make, I believe the path forward is clear.”

The governor said the recent events in Charlottesville demonstrate that monuments celebrating the leadership of the Confederacy have become flashpoints for hatred, division and violence.

According to County Administrator Tracy Gee, the confederate monument located at the Lunenburg County Courthouse is on property owned by the county.

“The monument was first located in the Town of Victoria in 1916, in what was known as the Victoria Town Square at the time, as provided by an Act of the General Assembly,” Gee said. “It was moved to the courthouse property on request from the American Legion in 1968 along with the German Howitzer cannon, per records from the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.”
In a Dispatch Facebook post that asked Lunenburg residents their thoughts regarding McAuliffe’s statement, two commenters voiced opposition to the relocation of confederate statues.

According to the Code of Virginia, a locality may, within the geographical limits of the locality, authorize and permit the erection of monuments or memorials for any war or conflict,” to include a number of U.S. wars, including the American Civil War.

The law cites, “if such are erected, it shall be unlawful for the authorities of the locality, or any other person or persons, to disturb or interfere with any monuments or memorials so erected, or to prevent its citizens from taking proper measures and exercising proper means for the protection, preservation and care of same.”

It defines “disturb or interfere with” as including removal of, damaging or defacing monuments or memorials, or, in the case of the Civil War, the placement of Union markings or monuments on previously-designated Confederate memorials or the placement of Confederate markings or monuments on previously designated Union memorials.