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State and local officials call for removal of Confederate monuments

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Governor McAuliffe has called for the removal of Confederate monuments in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, McAuliffe said that the recent events in Charlottesville show that the monuments have become “flashpoints for hatred, division and violence.”

McAuliffe said our communities must heal and learn from the tragic events.

“I encourage Virginia's localities and the General Assembly – which are vested with the legal authority – to take down these monuments and relocate them to museums or more appropriate settings.”

This comes after Mayor Levar Stoney said that effective immediately the Monument Avenue Commission will include an examination of the removal and/or relocation of some or all of the Confederate statues.

“These monuments should be part of our dark past and not of our bright future. I personally believe they are offensive and need to be removed," Stoney said in part.

McAuliffe acknowledged that the decision to remove the statues is not his to make, but said he believes the removal of the statues is the clear path forward.

“I hope we can all now agree that these symbols are a barrier to progress, inclusion and equality in Virginia,” he wrote.

Governor McAuliffe full statement below:

“The discussion regarding whether to relocate Confederate statues is an important and legitimate conversation that should take place in each community that contains one. Monuments should serve as unifiers, to inspire us collectively and to venerate our greatest citizens. Unfortunately, the recent events in Charlottesville demonstrate that monuments celebrating the leadership of the Confederacy have become flashpoints for hatred, division and violence.

As we attempt to heal and learn from the tragic events in Charlottesville, I encourage Virginia's localities and the General Assembly – which are vested with the legal authority –  to take down these monuments and relocate them to museums or more appropriate settings. I hope 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.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Governor Ralph Northam also released a statement Wednesday calling for the removal of Confederate statues.

"I support City of Charlottesville's decision to remove the Robert E. Lee statue. I believe these statutes should be taken down and moved into museums. As governor, I am going to be a vocal advocate for that approach and work with localities on this issue," he said. "We should also do more to elevate the parts of our history that have all too often been underrepresented. That means memorializing civil rights advocates like Barbara Johns and Oliver Hill, who helped move our Commonwealth closer towards equality."

Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie issued a statement on Confederate monuments saying the decision should be left to local communities.

"I believe that decisions about historical statues are best made at the local level, but they should stay and be placed in historical context," he wrote. "These are legitimate differences, and I know Virginians are engaging in an ongoing, thoughtful conversation about these sensitive issues, one marked by respect and understanding."

Click here to read the full statement.

Attorney General Mark R. Herring also issued a statement agreeing with McAuliffe and Northam’s call to remove Confederate statues.

"I agree with Gov. McAuliffe and Lt. Gov. Northam that this is the time for each community to engage in an inclusive conversation on the future of its Confederate statues and monuments. In my opinion, these statues should be relocated to museums or removed. Gov. McAuliffe said it well: these symbols are a barrier to progress, inclusion, and equality in Virginia."