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Loudoun County supervisor to seek guidance on courthouse grounds memorial

Leesburg’s 109-year-old Confederate statue. Times-Mirror/Alexander Todd Erkiletian
Loudoun County Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) plans to ask the Heritage Commission to recommend how the county can “fully reflect” events of historical significance on Leesburg’s courthouse grounds without removing the controversial Confederate soldier statue.

The Catoctin district supervisor said on Tuesday that he will bring an item to the Board of Supervisors’ Sept. 20 business meeting directing the Heritage Commission to “review the historic significance of the courthouse grounds.”

Higgins’ request comes as localities around the commonwealth -- including Loudoun County -- are grappling with whether to remove their decades-old statues from public spaces following deadly protests in Charlottesville in August. The protests were sparked by the city council in Charlottesville voting to remove the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park.

Opponents of the statue in Loudoun County say the soldier stands as symbol of oppression and has no place in front of the county’s courthouse, while those who support keeping the statue argue that it is an integral part of not only Loudoun’s history, but of the Civil War altogether.

Many have called on the county to relocate the statue to Ball’s Bluff National Cemetery.

“The call to move the statue is the wrong approach,” Higgins said in a prepared statement. “The Confederate soldier statue should stay where it is, but it should not stand alone.”

Higgins said Loudoun County was a “microcosm of our nation during the Civil War” and that the county “cannot forget that many men, Confederate and Union, heavily traversed Loudoun and lost their lives in our county, brother literally fought against brother; Loudoun is truly hallowed ground.”

He also stressed that Loudoun could not forget about its enslaved population during the Civil War era.

In 1860, he said about 5,501 slaves lived in Loudoun. They accounted for roughly 25 percent of the county’s 21,744 population.

Following the protests in Charlottesville, Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said that because state code prevents the county from moving its Confederate statue, she planned to ask the General Assembly to give localities greater discretion over war monuments and memorials within their jurisdictions.

In order to ask the General Assembly, the Board of Supervisors will still need to put the request on its legislative agenda. In order for any item to go on the county’s legislative agenda, it needs to be approved by the full Board of Supervisors.

So far, only four of the nine-member board have said they would support relocating or removing the statue.

Randall’s efforts have been met with scrutiny. Some have argued Loudoun already has the authority to move the statue.

Critics point to a decision out of Danville, where a judge ruled that state code did not apply to monuments built before 1998.They also point to a statement Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) issued after he vetoed a bill that would have clarified the current state code and protected war monuments “regardless of when erected.”

Attorney General Mark Herring (D) later issued an advisory opinion shortly after Randall’s announcement stating that local governments can relocate or remove Confederate monuments from their jurisdictions depending on the restrictions that affect the locality’s particular monuments.

In the case of Loudoun County, Herring’s opinion appeared to clarify that Leesburg’s Confederate statue is protected under state code. County officials said they agreed with Herring’s opinion.

“It’s important for us to be able to have a thoughtful dialogue and process,” Higgins said. “There is no place in Loudoun for the events that recently occurred in Charlottesville. Our board includes Democrats and Republicans working on behalf of our constituents and while we have policy differences on occasion, we respect each other and are civil in our discourse. This must also be the case in the public discussion about our history of the Civil War.”

“We are always better off when we learn from each other. Let's not tear down one another or existing memorials,” Higgins added. “Instead, let's build our understanding of our history. Loudoun’s unique history is our strength, not our weakness. We can’t learn from history, if we hide it.”

The Loudoun County Heritage Commission is a 16-member body that supports documenting and preserving Loudoun’s heritage and history. They also advise the Board of Supervisors and other county offices regarding heritage resources and support tasks approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Related coverage:

UPDATE: Chaos in Charlottesville: 1 dies during riots, 2 state troopers die in helicopter crash

In wake of Charlottesville, Loudoun Democrats host gathering next to Confederate statue in Leesburg

UPDATE: Organizers cancel rally in support of Confederate monument in Leesburg
Loudoun chairwoman to ask General Assembly for greater discretion over Confederate monuments
Republican supervisor calls on county to relocate Confederate statue in Leesburg
MORE: Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office releases surveillance footage of vandalism suspects

Fate of Loudoun County Confederate statue mired in code and confusion
We asked 28 local officials about Leesburg’s Confederate statue. Here’s what they had to say.
Herring’s opinion on Confederate monuments appears to mean Leesburg statue can’t be moved

Loudoun County agrees with Herring’s opinion on Confederate statues


Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @SydneyKashiwagi.

Comments


Meyers and Randall want to replace this statue with statues of themselves.


Higgins has no clue.  Any new markers will just be revisionist history.  You can’t judge the past with the standards of today.  Marker should say “Learn more about the War by reading a book”


Weak knees and a slack jaw are all that supervisors need to give into these new found pc warriors!


Let’s at least put up a new plaque on that statue…something along the lines of “No matter what was in the heart of each of these men, together they served or gave their lives to protect the right of one man to own another.”


When you read some of Loudoun’s old court cases, and they assign the value of a 3.5 year-old slave at $150.00, it is conscious shocking.  If the community finds the statue offensive, their feelings should be recognized and deferred to—- not to preachy supervisors pretending to understand.


and last night black lives matter activists who are students at UVA demanded removal of Thomas Jefferson’s statue at the University he founded. If you give in to these snowflake social justice warriors, they will never stop. it will not stop with this Courthouse statue.


Why on earth did Higgins shackle the group with the “statue must remain” directive?  Utter nonsense.  The group is merely making a recommendation.  Why tie their hands.  Give them free rein to develop a proposed solution…

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