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Dem Speaker Ousts Confederate Monuments from VA State Capitol

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Virginia has removed from its iconic state capitol the busts and a statue honoring Confederate generals and officials.

That includes a bronze statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee positioned in the same spot where he stood to assume command of the state’s armed forces in the Civil War nearly 160 years ago.

They are the latest monuments to be torn down or vandalized in the weeks since the death of George Floyd.

Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, a Democrat, ordered the Lee statue and busts of generals J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and others removed from the historic Old House Chamber.

A moving crew worked through the night Thursday, carefully removing the monuments and their plaques and loading them into a truck to be taken to an undisclosed location.

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“Virginia has a story to tell that extends far beyond glorifying the Confederacy and its participants,” Filler-Corn said in a statement.

“Now is the time to provide context to our Capitol to truly tell the commonwealth’s whole history.”

Designed by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia State Capitol was the first state capitol to open after the American Revolution and was used as the Confederacy’s capitol during much of the Civil War.

Filler-Corn’s move to remove the Confederate generals comes a few weeks after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the removal of a different Lee monument — a 21-foot bronze equestrian sculpture on Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue.

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A lawsuit has delayed that statue’s removal, but other Confederate monuments on the street — once one of the most prominent collection of tributes to the Confederacy in the nation — have already come down.

Earlier this week, the House approved a bill to remove statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders from the U.S. Capitol. The bill’s prospects in the Senate are uncertain.

In Virginia, the Old House Chamber was where lawmakers first met when the Capitol opened in 1788 and was used as the House’s meeting place for more than 100 years before the Capitol building was expanded. It is not currently used for official purposes.

The chamber’s history is long and varied — then-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall presided over a trial there that saw former Vice President Aaron Burr acquitted of treason.

Virginia delegates voted in the chamber to secede from the Union in April 1861. A few days later, Lee entered the room to take formal command of the state’s military.

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“Trusting in almighty God, an approving conscience, and the aid of my fellow citizens, I devote myself to the service of my native state, in whose behalf alone will I ever again draw my sword,” Lee said, according to an inscription on the statue.

Like many Confederate monuments, most of those recently removed from Virginia’s Capitol were erected decades after the Civil War.

The Lee statue was approved in 1928. Busts of Davis and Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, were donated to Virginia in the 1950s.

The House does not control Capitol Square, the outdoor area around the Capitol, which includes statues of Stonewall Jackson and William “Extra Billy” Smith, a former governor and Confederate brigadier general.

The authority to remove those statues is a matter of debate and may need the full approval of the legislature.


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