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Loudoun County agrees with Herring’s opinion on Confederate statues

The contentious question of what, if anything, to do with Loudoun’s 109-year-old Confederate soldier statue on the courthouse grounds in downtown Leesburg was dealt another curve ball last week.

Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said in an advisory opinion last Friday that local governments can relocate or remove Confederate monuments from their jurisdictions depending on the restrictions that affect the locality’s particular monuments.

Although not binding, Herring’s latest opinion also clarified that the 109-year-old Confederate statue on the courthouse grounds in downtown Leesburg is protected under state code.

Following Herring’s announcement, Loudoun County spokesman Glen Barbour told the Times-Mirror that the attorney general’s opinion was “consistent with what Loudoun County has stated on this matter over the past couple of years.”

Herring’s opinion came 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 earlier this month. The protests sparked by the city council in Charlottesville voting to remove the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park.

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

Some have argued that 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.”

Phillip Thompson, the president of the local chapter of the NAACP who has remained a vocal opponent statue, says Herring’s opinion just adds another cover for the county to “hide behind.”

“I just think the issue is so controversial that [the county will] hide behind the attorney general’s opinion and not try to look at this in any other manner,” Thompson said.

Thompson, a lawyer by profession, believes there may be some other avenues in which the county could challenge state code and the attorney general’s opinion. But he thinks there is no political will within Loudoun County leadership to do so.

In his opinion, Herring noted that because the existing state law was passed in 1904, it does not apply to any monument or memorial built prior to then. The Confederate statue in Leesburg was dedicated on the courthouse grounds in 1908.

Thompson argues that because the statue was donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy -- an association the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a neo-Confederate group -- it could be argued that the statue is not a “war memorial.”

“The assumptions are that this is a war memorial, but I would argue that, first, anything being put up by the Daughters of the Confederacy is not a war memorial. It’s a white supremacist memorial, so that would be my initial argument,” Thompson said.

He also wonders if moving the Confederate statue to Ball’s Bluff National Cemetery would be considered an outright removal of the memorial, which is prohibited under state code.

“All those various things come into play,” he said.

The attorney general also noted in his opinion that three categories of legal restrictions could affect a locality's ability in relocating or removing Confederate monuments.

Herring said it would depend on how the state code was applied to localities’ particular monuments. Herring also said that some monuments could be subject to restrictions found in “instruments transferring ownership of the monument to the locality or local governmental entity or restrictions imposed as a result of subsequent actions of the locality.”

The attorney general also pointed out that jurisdictions might not be able to remove their war monument because they were donated to them and thus subject to reversionary terms or conditions in the transfer instrument triggered by the locality's attempt to remove or disturb the monument.

Before the Board of Supervisors can ask the General Assembly for an opinion, a majority of its nine members will need to approve adding the request to the county's upcoming legislative agenda.

So far, only four members of the board have indicated they would support the chairwoman’s request.

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


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

Comments


Well said Tekniqz703. That statue isn’t going anywhere, no matter what anybody thinks or wants.


Yall have got to get a life and find something new to write about. Our statue is not going anywhere no matter how you slice it, it’s against VA state law. Stop trying to promote something that the people of the county do not want.


Any Christopher Columbus statues in Loudoun we can now focus our attention on?


Since August 24 I have seen 5 articles abour confederate statues and not one about Houston’s natural disaster.  Surely many Loudouners have done something to help out the folks in TX….just goes to show you the agenda of the editor of this paper…


Time to move on LTM…surely there are more pressing matters at hand in Loudoun County.  Just like the uproar over the Redskins name…it’s just not important.  Leave our history alone!

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