City Council authorizes mayor to accept Lee monument and land from state | Richmond Free Press

The Monument and Allen Avenues roundabout where the giant monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee once stood will soon be owned by the City of Richmond.

City Council unanimously cleared the way Monday by authorizing Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s administration to accept a gift from the state of the now-empty circle, which measures 200 feet in diameter.

The city council also held a special session on Wednesday to approve the state’s transfer of the statue and the pedestal it rested on to the city. Under the order just introduced, the Lee artifacts, along with other city-owned Confederate statues, would be transferred to the Richmond-based Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia in Jackson Ward, as previously announced by Mayor Stoney and the Governor. Ralph S. Northam.

The 9-0 council vote came on a night when the city’s governing body also backed the mayor’s proposal to inject an additional $1.3 million into the creation of a memorial campus for Shockoe slaves. Bottom.

Funding approved includes $300,000 to support the creation of a National Slavery Museum Foundation, which plans to raise and spend up to $220 million to establish the American Slave Trade Museum at the site. from a former slave trading post, Lumpkin’s Jail, which became the home of Virginia Union University after the Civil War.

The funding also includes $1 million to pay for the museum and campus. The new design funds, according to the city, will be in addition to the $1.7 million in unused money allocated by the city council in 2020 to pay for the design of the 9-acre heritage campus that includes the museum site.

Incumbent Governor Ralph S. Northam announced his decision Dec. 5 to transfer the roundabout to the city once the Lee pedestal is removed, and the council has rushed to ensure the transfer is complete before the governor does not leave office on Saturday. , January 15.

The state fence around the circle is still in place. Council was advised that the fence will remain in place until the area can be replanted with grass.

Lincoln Saunders, Richmond’s chief administrative officer, told council that planners would be tasked with leading a community process to come up with recommendations for the future of the circle as well as sites on Monument Avenue where other Confederate statues stood.

It’s unclear whether the city’s process would include cooperation with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, to which Governor Northam provided $1 million to conduct a process to consider what should replace Confederate monuments.

Ninth District Councilman Michael J. Jones expressed concern about the future expense involved in creating and implementing any plan to “reinvent” Monument Avenue. He said he would not want to see this “reinvention” take precedence over areas of the city where poverty and unemployment are rampant and which require substantial investment.

He was happy, however, that the city owned and controlled the roundabout.

“I’m glad we’re getting it now before we change gubernatorial leadership because, I’m sorry, this guy (new Republican Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin) and a lot of these GOP people are straight to another level of white supremacy. said Dr. Jones. “Not necessarily just because they pass it, but just because it’s the talking points that get them elected. And it’s even scarier.

Prior to the vote, council members heard from a handful of speakers who supported the city’s takeover of the site. Speakers called for the quick removal of the fence so that the circle could be used as a public park, much as it became notably in late spring 2020 during the racial justice protests that erupted after the murder by the George Floyd police in Minneapolis.

“There is not necessarily a need for additional funds to put all this together. The community did it in 2020, and we will do it again,” said Joseph Rogers, a local educator and activist, who also urged the council to rename the circle to Marcus-David Peters, as it was done so informally during demonstrations.

Mr Peters, a 24-year-old high school biology teacher, was shot dead in May 2018 by a Richmond police officer while suffering from what was described as a mental health crisis.

Commenting on the proposed $1.3 million investment in the museum, Dr. Jones called it a fitting way for the city to go about creating a better future.

“The answer cannot be to rebuild Monument Avenue,” said Dr Jones. “It must be to rebuild the antithesis of what was demolished. And the best thing to do is to get serious as a board and administration to tell the real story, the real story, of what happened in Virginia. However, Phil Wilayto and Ana Edwards, who led an 18-year campaign to reclaim Shockoe Bottom’s slavery history, fear they and other advocates will be left out.

Once one of the nation’s largest slave markets, Shockoe Bottom ranks among the most important places “to understand the history of today’s black community and, indeed, of the United States as a whole.” together,” they wrote in a letter to city council on behalf of the Sacred Grounds Historic Recovery Project.

“That’s why we are deeply concerned that the city’s attention may shift away from the Heritage Campus” to focus on the creation of a foundation little known to the public and its plan to create an expensive museum that may never materialize, they wrote.

The council also passed legislation to incorporate on the city’s list of statues removed those of Confederate General Williams C. Wickham and the First Virginia Regiment, a Confederate unit, which were removed by protesters in June 2020.

The vote to add these statues came amid preparations for the removal of the pedestals where the other city-owned Confederate statues once stood. The city awarded a $1.5 million contract Jan. 5 to Team Henry Enterprises. Procurement documents say the removal is to include the statue of General AP Hill and his remains, which are interred below, at Hermitage Road and Laburnum Avenue.

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