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Governor’s Order Authorizes Alexandria to Remove Confederate Statue

Once again, the Confederacy has been handed a defeat in Richmond that sends ripples up to Alexandria.

Alexandria has debated and put plans in place for the Appomattox statue at the intersection of Prince and S. Washington Streets for years, but state law stood in the way of actually making any progress toward removing it.

On Saturday, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill that authorizing localities to remove or alter Confederate monuments, overturning the earlier state prohibition.

The Appomattox statue is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and commemorates the Alexandrians who left the Union-occupied city from that spot to join the Confederacy. This May 24 marks the 131st anniversary of the statue in Alexandria.

In 2016, the City Council unanimously approved not only recommending that the statue be moved the nearby grassy lot outside the Lyceum, but began advocating the state authorization to do so. Those petitions fell on deaf ears until last November when Democrats took control of the Virginia legislature and breathed new life into the city’s ambitions to eliminate Confederate memorials and iconography.

A driver nearly accomplished the city’s goals in December: crashing into the statue and fracturing its base, but the statue was subsequently repaired.

“It has been the policy of the city for several years now to pursue movement of the statue out of the middle of Washington Street,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “We have had dialogue with the Daughters of the Confederacy over the past few months and with the enactment of this legislation, we would now work to realize city policy.”

Former Alexandria Mayor William “Bill” Euille got his start protesting against the statue while he was a student at T.C. Williams High School and applauded Northam’s decision.

“I applaud the governor’s action to allow local governments to make the proper decisions on the relocation and removal or placement of Confederate monuments, which is long overdue, but provides an opportunity to correct racial injustice while allowing for inclusiveness in telling a more complete story,” Euille said. “Alexandria has already studied this matter and a citizens panel has made recommendations to the City Council on how to move forward in fairness while protecting our history.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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