Monument Avenue Commission subgroups begin meeting

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RICHMOND, Va -- Only one resident was in attendance at the first sub group meeting of the Monument Avenue Commission when members called for public input. Mayor Levar Stoney formed the commission in June to help "redefine the false narrative of the Confederate statues that line Richmond's grandest boulevard."

Made up of historians, city leaders, and community members, the commission will file a report to the Mayor's office on what steps to take moving forward based on community input and committee discussions.  The report is due late October or early November.

Monday's sub group meeting was billed as mostly a "meet and greet" at the beginning of the process.  This particular sub committee, which is one of four, is tasked with looking at what other cities across the country have done to "address Confederate memorials and monuments."

Cities like New Orleans and Chancellorsville have seen protests after removing or voting to remove Confederate memorials from city property.  Mayor Stoney during his announcement in June did not call for removal of the Confederate statues, but hinted at adding signage or other memorials to tell a "complete story" around them.

Most of the subgroups' conversation focused on how other cities have contextualized Confederate monements.  City councilman Andres Addison, who is on the commission, said: "Richmond could be a model" for other cities on how to do so.

Groups like the Virginia Flaggers have opposed the Monument Avenue Commission arguing the Mayor is making “war against the Confederate monuments” and the veterans honored by the statues.  In response to a social media post about Monday's meeting, the group replied, "NO CONTEXT. NO COMPROMISE. Leave our monuments alone. They speak for themselves."

Other groups have called on Mayor to make removal of the Confederate monuments an option for the commission.  The Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice, and Equality penned an open letter to Stoney over the weekend.

Only one Richmond resident attended Monday's meeting.  Bill Flowers, who said he has lived in Richmond so long he remembers the day when the statutes were actually green in color, said the conversation about what to do on Richmond's grand boulevard could have deeper meaning.

"If there is any city in the United States that's destined to help with racial healing, empathy and understanding, what better place to start than Richmond?" Flowers said.  "This could be really great for Richmond, but step one is respecting the other guys' thought."

Monday, multiple sub group members said they hoped to hear from as many members of the public as possible during their work over the next few months.  Every sub group meeting is open to the public, and two public input sessions have been scheduled so far.

Two public meetings scheduled:

Sub group meetings scheduled so far

  • Historians Review Group: Tuesday, August 1 at 10:30 a.m.
    Library of Virginia
    800 E. Broad St.

  • New Monuments and Interpretation Group: Wednesday, August 2 at 1 p.m.
    Department of Historic Resources
    2801 Kensington Ave.
  • Community Engagement Group: Wednesday, August 2 at 3 p.m.
    Black History Museum
    122 W. Leigh St.

People can submit comments online as well.  Click on the "public input" tab at http://www.monumentavenuecommission.org/

The Monument Avenue District is on the national and state historic registry, according to state officials, and was designated a National Historic Landmark decades ago.  The Director of Virginia's Department of Historic Resources said those designations do not come with specific protections, however.