In last year’s General Assembly session, then-House Minority Leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) introduced several bills to be considered to rectify the situation that was had in his home district following the deadly “Unite the Right” rally that caused severe havoc when white supremacists and neo-Nazis clashed with members of the notoriously violent Antifa in the streets of Charlottesville. One counter-protester and two Virginia State Trooper pilots were killed during the second weekend of August 2017, which has left scars on the Commonwealth.
Two bills sponsored by Delegate Toscano would have allowed localities to restrict the open carrying of firearms at permitted events and to remove war memorials. However, both unpopular bills were killed in committee votes last session.
Though, Toscano’s bill to allow localities to remove statues is back on the docket in this year’s 45-day session in Richmond to give cities and counties expanded rights in a Dillon Rule state.
House Bill 2377 would allow a locality to “remove or provide for the upkeep, maintenance, or contextualization of any such monument or memorial located in its public space, regardless of when erected.” This includes any and all statues or monuments from any American war, even from before the U.S. was founded.
The legislation applies to the following wars and/conflicts:
Algonquin (1622), French and Indian (1754-1763), Revolutionary (1775-1783), War of 1812 (1812-1815), Mexican (1846-1848), Civil War (1861-1865), Spanish-American (1898), World War I (1917-1918), World War II (1941-1945), Korean (1950-1953), Vietnam (1965-1973), Operation Desert Shield-Desert Storm (1990-1991), Global War on Terrorism (2000- ), Operation Enduring Freedom (2001- ), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-).
If passed, the bill would also strike out the following passage in § 15.2-1812 of the Virginia Code:
“If such are erected, it shall be unlawful for the authorities of the locality, or any other person or persons, to disturb or interfere with any monuments or memorials so erected, or to prevent its citizens from taking proper measures and exercising proper means for the protection, preservation and care of same.”
In a report from the Daily Progress, Toscano said that he is narrowing the focus of the legislation to specifically pertain to Civil War memorials, explaining that last session’s bills “drew a lot of negative attention, particularly from veterans.”
“By narrowing the focus to Civil War monuments, I think it has a greater chance of passing,” he added.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) has also taken an interest in the measure.
In Richmond, the Monument Avenue Commission, created by Mayor Levar Stoney (D), has recommended the removal of the statue commemorating Confederate President Jefferson Davis, also still mulling over whether to reinterpret or “add context” to the statues lining Monument Avenue.