Following the deadly protests in Charlottesville and renewed calls to relocate or remove Confederate monuments from public spaces around the country, we asked Loudoun's local and state lawmakers as well as Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-10th) if they think the Confederate statue that sits on the courthouse grounds in Leesburg should be removed or relocated. Here's what they had to say.
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-10th) -- Supports adding context to current Confederate statue in Leesburg without moving it
"Virginia's 10th District's heritage community and experts have been respectfully including many voices in this discussion for years -- teaching about the evils of slavery and racism, and adding the broader picture of our history in a Commonwealth at the center of this historic American conflict. I support building more statues and adding to our history; not tearing down statues or erasing our history. Our community has been adding to our local African American history through efforts at sites such as Oatlands Plantation, Manassas National Battlefield Park, The Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum, The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, Josephine City, and many more of our local museums and historic sites, cemeteries, and battlefields where more context, explanation, and preservation will continue. I have worked with our community in support of these efforts which I believe demonstrate that we are at our best when we bring our diverse community together and call upon the 'better angels of our nature' to educate, illuminate, and stop the division."
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors
Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) -- Supports moving the Confederate statue
Chairwoman Randall supports moving the statue to a different location than the courthouse grounds. She said history should be remembered "but not all history should be celebrated."
Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) -- Won't say
"Regarding the statue, of course at this juncture it is premature for the county to even consider the issue because we don't have the authority to make any changes. Should we ever gain that authority, I'd like to learn more about the context by which it was placed, and get input from others (perhaps the Heritage Commission, for instance) before I made any decisions about it."
Supervisor Koran Saines (D-Sterling) -- Supports moving the Confederate statue
"In a 1866 letter to a fellow Confederate General, Robert E. Lee wrote, 'I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.' As far as I know no battles were fought on the courthouse grounds, and thus the removal of the monument to somewhere such as Ball's Bluff Cemetery, where soldiers actually fought, died and are laid to rest would be more appropriate than its current location. Regardless, it is my strong belief that what happened last night at the Leesburg Courthouse was wrong and unacceptable. Vandalism is illegal and should not be considered by anyone as an appropriate avenue for expression.
"I also believe that the courthouse and its grounds are intended to be a place where all people can seek and expect justice, and it is my opinion that a monument which highlights a period in our country of great injustice has no place there. While there are those who would argue removing it is erasing history, I respectfully disagree. Textbooks and classrooms are where history is taught, and moving a monument does not erase the history its represents just as it does not erase the injustice it represents. Moving the monument today does not and cannot change the story of the past, but it can help set the tone in at least some small way, for the narrative of the future."
Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) -- Supports moving the Confederate statue
"I think it's important to acknowledge that we don't believe anymore in what the Confederacy stood for and a third of our residents didn't believe in it then either. Those who believed in the mission of the Confederacy have had 100 percent of the say on the courthouse lawn, and it's time to change that."
Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) -- Won't say
"I'm far from prepared to speak on [the removal of the Confederate statue] until I get more information, so that will be coming before the board and at that time I'll speak on it."
Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) -- Supports moving the Confederate statue
"As a conservative, I stand for the liberty of all Americans -- no one can argue that is what the Confederacy stood for. Indeed, that's exactly what they feared and what they fought against. For many Americans, these statues are a reminder that parts of our nation celebrated and continues to honor those who sought to keep them enslaved forever. Remembering the good and the evil in our history is important, but that doesn't mean we need to honor or celebrate evil in our public squares. History can be properly remembered in history books, in museums, and at sites where the history happened and where it can be put in proper context.
"Instead of destroying the Leesburg statue and the gross history attached to it, our statute should be moved a couple miles away to the Ball's Bluff Battlefield. There, at a Civil War battlefield, it can educate and serve as a memorial for families who seek to remember their ancestors as American veterans"
Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) -- Supports keeping the statue in its current location and adding an additional marker and context to the memorial
"Loudoun is not Charlottesville. There is no place in Loudoun for the activities that occurred in Charlottesville. Loudoun County was a dynamic, ever-changing landscape in the Civil War. Brother fought against brother in Loudoun County. We were Union, Confederate, Black, White, slave, free, male and female. Denying, or sanitizing our history in Loudoun is extremely unwise and shortsighted. Our history is our strength not our weakness. It is incumbent on all of us to tell Loudoun's entire history. How can we learn from our history if we hide it?
"In 2015 the Board of Supervisors voted to give $50,000 to support a slave memorial on the courthouse grounds that has yet to be proposed or built. This is important because in 1860, 5,501 slaves lived in Loudoun County, 25% of Loudoun's 21,744 population. This is an important part of Loudoun's history that must be memorialized.
"The confederate soldier statute should not stand alone on the courthouse grounds. In my view, it is only right that it should be joined by a memorial to Loudoun's slaves and a memorial to its Union soldiers. In 2015, we were talking about telling Loudoun's whole story. This is the correct approach."
Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) and Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) did not respond to calls and emails from the Times-Mirror.
Del. Randy Minchew (R-10th) -- Won't say
"I'm not going to give you a yes or no right now -- that's soundbite that you want. You want to get Republicans saying yes, and Democrats saying no, so you create this polarization. I'm going against polarization, I'm suggesting there be a rational process.
"I commend the Loudoun Board of Supervisors for the respectful and contemplative way in which it is responding to the debate concerning the Loudoun war memorial over at the old courthouse. This is not a time for knee-jerk reactions or hostile arguments and the board is setting a good tone as it gets ready to come off its August break."
Del. Dave LaRock (R-33rd) -- Not in support of moving the Confederate statue
"Virginia has a long and fascinating role at the forefront of American history, with many great leaders, including some with views and actions many consider wrong. All of us have parts of our lives where we failed, along with areas of success, and this is true of historical figures as well. In order to avoid repeating mistakes of the past, we should not attempt to hide or erase history, but study unbiased and accurate historical accounts, being careful to not misrepresent past victories or mistakes.
"The current law on protection of war memorials dates back to 1950, when Democrats completely dominated Virginia government. This law was last updated in 2010 with unanimous bipartisan support, including yea votes from AG Mark Herring and LG Ralph Northam. Last year's effort to clarify the law received support from all Republicans and half of the Democrats in the House of Delegates. Now, in light of current controversy, many of the Democrats are conveniently flipping their positions for purely political purposes. I do not support removing existing lawful protections of memorials and monuments."
Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34th) -- Supports giving localities the choice, but won't say whether she would like to see the statue kept in its place or removed
"I would support Chairwoman Randall's request that localities be given a voice in making these kinds of decisions."
Del. John Bell (D-87th) -- Supports moving the Confederate statue
"Things that are unacceptable racially today should be in museums We shouldn't forget that part of our history, but we shouldn't put it on a pedestal and celebrate it the way many of them are done today."
Del. Jennifer Boysko (D-86th) -- Thinks issue should be left to localities to decide and won't say whether she believes the Leesburg statue should be removed or relocated
"I feel like it's a very complex issue ... I think it's less about a statue than it is about groups coming, spreading their hate and if basically in light of what we just saw happening [in Charlottesville], I think that localities should have the authority to contextualize and remove [Confederate statues] if they deem appropriate. But I think what's more concerning to me in this whole situation, is that we had people who came and used those inanimate statues as a message to try to incite hate and fear in people."
Del. James LeMunyon (R-67th) -- Won't say
"It's likely that this issue, specifically the provisions of 18.2-1832.1 of the Code of Virginia, will be considered by the General Assembly during the 2018 session beginning in January. I see my role as facilitating a respectful public discussion on this issue between now and then, particularly since Virginia law addresses war memorials more generally than the specific case of Leesburg. Also, some people have suggested consideration of changing public references to the Civil War more broadly than the display of statues. I have not had the opportunity to discuss the matter personally with Chairman Randall, but I look forward to doing so."
Del. Tag Greason (R-33rd) did not respond.
State Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33rd) -- Supports moving the Confederate statue
"I think that the statute should be removed. There were no Civil War battles fought on the steps of the courthouse. The courthouse is a place where people are supposed to be able to find refuge and justice and equality under the law, and for a lot of members of our community, coming into the court complex to see [the Confederate statue], they feel anything but those ideals, and that to me is a problem."
State Sen. Dick Black (R-13th) -- Declined to answer
"I don't have any comment, I may put out something and you're welcome to view that."
State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st) -- Will support legislation giving localities more authority to remove Confederate statues from public spaces but won't say whether she believes the Leesburg statue should be removed or relocated
"My role as a state legislator is to facilitate the conversation localities are engaging in across the Commonwealth about the appropriateness of publicly displaying statutes honoring confederate leaders. Local governments need the authority to respond to the current day values and cultures in their communities. To that end, I will be sponsoring legislation in January that will grant local governments unequivocal authority to remove Confederate statutes from public spaces or to otherwise determine where and how such symbols shall be displayed. As always, I will work with County leaders to ensure that any legislative proposal accurately addresses the concerns of localities and has as much 'buy-in' as possible from my Richmond colleagues. I truly hope that this issue can garner sufficient support from across the aisle. However, lawmakers in the past have been reluctant to enable behavior that they might consider to be 'too progressive.' Let's hope that the national attention this topic has been receiving over the past few weeks has changed some minds."
State Sen. Jill Vogel (R-27th) -- Supports keeping the statue in its current location
"I believe we should teach history not erase it. I do not support changing the law to allow removal of Virginia historic monuments. I have worked for years with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fight for money for historic preservation and to now spend millions of taxpayer dollars to undo that work is appalling, especially when there is so much more left to protect. Many in our community worked closely with Congressman Frank Wolf to protect the Journey Through Hallowed Ground and I will continue to fight to protect our battlefields, our cemeteries and our monuments."
Leesburg Town Council
Mayor Kelly Burk -- Won't say
"While the issue of removing or keeping the confederate statue on the courthouse grounds is a decision for the General Assembly and the county, it is clear to me that there is an important conversation people are having around the Commonwealth, and the nation, about this topic. Whether we like it or not, the statue is park of the history of our country, nothing can change that."
Leesburg Vice Mayor Suzanne Fox -- Won't say
"May I ask you why the Times Mirror feels it necessary to report where local politicians stand on the statue issue? From what I have witnessed, this is a very divisive issue, and most local politicians have very little (if any) influence over the situation. If called upon to offer feedback on specific legislation, I will opine then. One thing I will say is that I will only be part of the solution, and not part of the problem."
Leesburg Town Council Member Thomas S. Dunn -- Does Not support moving the Confederate statue in Leesburg
"No I don't support moving it. I don't see where if people are offended by the statue moving it from one public location to another public location would reduce that offense that they feel. Additionally, we can't go around removing anything that individuals feel or claim is offensive to them because you do that and you eventually will have no identity with anything other than the state or whatever entity survives will be the only identity there is. So no, I don't think that removing it is going to solve any real problems that are out there especially in the minority community that seems to be so upset.
"They also don't seem to be able to stand for the American flag at football games, so you know, what's next? What's the next symbol that they'll use as a symbol of oppression? The United States flag flew over the times of slavery, the pilgrims made slaves out of the Native Americans. Where do we end again at the offenses that people want to take on? When do people start saying that they're offended by anyone who has more money than they do? What do we do with those people?
"If folks want to have a legitimate discussion that isn't already designed with a preconceived conclusion which is, 'I win,' then we need to have that. But to rush out now after something that's been there for 100 and something years, claim that it all of a sudden now is so offensive that we just can't handle it, I wonder where their concerns were 40 years ago, 20 years ago?
"It just seems like we are entering into a phase that really only has a natural conclusion and that would be anything that offends anybody at anytime must be removed or destroyed must mean that all things can be removed and destroyed whether the offense is true or not."
Leesburg Town Council Member Ron Campbell -- Supports removing the Confederate statue in Leesburg
"The defense of this statute as a historical relic is not defensible for as long as it is celebrated it continues to perpetuate the historical fact and actual impact of slavery, treason, lynching and racism upon the lives of all Americans and especially disproportionately African Americans. Context matters and symbols matter.
"I hope that in the near future we as a community can come together to tell our truths in a peaceful way and gather some new ideas to honor all who served and died to protect the Union.
"So, yes my position is that the statue should come down. I know it will take significant conversation and cooperation. I also understand that we have problems in our community and country that will not be solved because a statute comes down but we must make efforts to move forward and cannot ignore the representations of hate and treason.
"I do believe that our Town Council is divided on this issue and will find it difficult to have the conversation and probably not agree on any resolution to support taking the statue down. I have talked with a few of my colleagues and while we don't have the same position, we do have the same interest in having all of history represented and all who live in our community respected. There has been no organized effort to get members of Town Council to weigh in on this subject as of today.
"The fact that rallies will or won't happen, will or won't be supported or approved is not leadership, it is just reactionary. Our political parties have ignored or used significant issues regarding race for far too long and the simmering hate and divisions can no longer be used for political purposes."
Leesburg Town Council Member Fernando "Marty" Martinez -- Supports moving Confederate statue
"I disagree with the symbolism that's the statues and flags, and the symbolism that it all brings and I think it's better served somewhere else."
Leesburg Town Council Member Ken Reid -- Avoids the question altogether
"In 2015, when I was Leesburg District supervisor, then Chairman York succeeded in getting the Board to approve $50,000 in tax dollars to match whatever the NAACP or private group could raise to build a memorial to black slaves in Loudoun on the Old Courthouse lawn. There was precedence for this as our Board also gave $50,000 to plug a funding gap for the Revolutionary War veteran statue on the Courthouse lawn, which was dedicated that fall (2015)."
"I voted for the slave memorial, but not the funding as the $50,000 might not have covered the true cost. As far as I know, the current Board has not changed tune on that, so the money is still available for that purpose. Perhaps you can inquire with Phillip Thompson on whether he, NAACP or another entity is pursuing fundraising and design for a slave memorial on the Old Courthouse Grounds, or if they have abandoned it in favor of having the Confederate monument removed. I don't know."
Town Council Member Hugh Forsythe -- Won't say
"I think a majority of people could care less about [the statue]. I think the small minority are going to make a big stink and [the question of relocating or moving the statue] is no right or wrong answer. Both sides are going to raise Cain. I think it's foolish for us to have to have police members down there to watch it, I think that's an overrun. Right now, I'm not going to voice which way I think, I'd like to talk to my other council members to get a decision, I know what I feel about it. I think the small minority are making things up that they shouldn't."
Sophie Desmond contributed to this report.