Report: Majority of Charlottesville citizens say leave the monuments alone
On Monday evening, December 19, Charlottesville City Council received the final report from its self-appointed “Blue Ribbon Commission”.
Prior to the meeting, a few of us gathered in LEE Park to pay our respects. As usual, we found the locals very friendly. Once they spoke with us and learned why we were there, they expressed their support for leaving the statue alone. Most of those we spoke with were among the city’s homeless population, who felt that the $700K that City Council wants to spend to move historical monuments could be much better spent. This young man approached us to voice his support, asked if he could have a flag, and posed for photos.
We arrived at council chambers early, and were quickly joined by a good group of men from the Kemper-Fry-Strother SCV Camp #19, the Va Division SCV 4th Brigade Commander, and a large contingency of Charlottesville citizens who were monument supporters. We passed out signs and chatted with folks until the meeting started, at which time a look around chambers showed that supporters of the monument greatly outnumbered those who want to tear it down.
During the matters by the public section of the meeting, no citizens spoke in favor of removing the monuments. Teresa Kay Lam, a Charlottesville native, gave a moving speech in favor of the monuments, and Susan Hathaway closed out the comments period with an address that ended with a promise…
"In the end, the monuments WILL remain, and the names of Lee and Jackson will be spoken with reverence and honor in the Commonwealth long after each of you are forgotten. We have the law and the majority of citizens on our side. You would be wise to consider both when making your decision.”
You can view the entire speech Here
The presentation of the report proceeded much as we anticipated. It was basically a read through of the report, which can be found Here
The report includes details that direct City Council to consider that if/when the Lee Monument is moved to McIntire park, that they be sure and not put it on a hill, or elevate it, in order to make sure the monument does not have a position of “supremacy”. Everything from throwing a cover over the LEE monument to changing the landscape to hide it, are suggested as options in the report.
After the presentation, commission member John Mason (an associate professor of history at UVA) was compelled to interject a statement to City Council in which he stressed that “White Supremacy” absolutely was a central theme of the Confederacy (he referenced the infamous Cornerstone Speech) AND of Robert E. Lee AND of the men who built the statue and that any descendants who deny that fact are simply running from the truth. It quickly became clear that Mr. Mason’s false narrative was the central theme of the commission’s deliberation.
Despite their best efforts to suppress truth, the report DID mention that the citizens who voiced their opinions in meetings and communications overwhelmingly supported leaving the statues in place and concentrating on adding others as desired. It mentioned the petition to remove the monument (which has garnered less than 1,000 signatures) but failed to mention the petition to KEEP them (which has garnered more than 10,000 signatures).
There had been some speculation that council might act upon the recommendations last night, but their comments quickly revealed that was not the case, and pointed to division within the ranks. Mayor Signer, who initially said he would reserve comments, went on to say that council has set aside $500K to act on the report and then indicated that he is in favor of keeping the monument in place. He estimated that almost 80% of the constituents he spoke with favored leaving the statues alone. Szakos was visibly shaken by his remarks, recoiled, and immediately spoke up and said that almost ALL of the citizens she has spoken to want the monument removed. Mr. Fenwick, probably the most reasonable of the lot, reminded his colleagues that all of the ideas and aspirations in the report are just words until the money is appropriated to make it happen.
They did not act to vote on any recommendations, and scheduled a work day in January to discuss the matter further.
Our take-away from the evening was all positive. We had a good showing of support and, in our opinion, the revelation of the true intent of Bellamy, Szakos and John Mason, and their false narrative of putting Confederate Veterans and their descendants "in their place" was telling to even those in the audience who were not necessarily proponents of the monuments. No vote was taken to move the monuments, and Szakos and Bellamy are not going to get an automatic stamp of approval of their monument removal efforts. There is a divide forming on council. Your calls, emails and letters are having an effect. There is a chance they will actually vote to leave the statue alone, but even if they don't, we are prepared to take immediate legal action. The statue isn't going anywhere. The only thing they get to decide is how much money they are willing to waste by attempting to move it when they know full well they cannot legally do so.
We will close with what we consider the highlight of the evening. When we stepped out into the hall after the meeting, we were approached by a lady of color (presumably a Charlottesville native) who said she wanted to thank us personally for coming out. She went on to say that she thinks it is important that all perspectives are heard and appreciated us sharing ours. We agreed, thanked her for her kind words and had a nice conversation. We have no idea where she stands on the issue, and did not even care to ask, but we believe she is typical of most Charlottesville residents who have ALL grown weary of the divisive and petty antics of City Council under the influence of Szacos and Bellamy.
News report of the meeting, with poll, Here