Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are reviving calls to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol following the violence at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.
The “Unite the Right” rally of white supremacists and the subsequent clashes with counterprotesters began as a protest against the Charlottesville city council’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Since the rally, other localities have moved to take down Confederate statues — and some lawmakers think the Capitol should consider following suit.
“We will never solve America’s race problem if we continue to honor traitors who fought against the United States in order to keep African-Americans in chains. By the way, thank God, they lost,” Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) told ABC News.
However, a CBC aide told The Hill that the group is not currently working on any legislative efforts, like resolutions or letters, on Confederate statues in the Capitol.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the sole African-American member of the Mississippi delegation, had demanded his state flag not be displayed due to its inclusion of the Confederate battle flag.
Asked about the remaining statues in the Capitol, Thompson this week reiterated that Confederate imagery should be removed from the complex.
“Confederate memorabilia have no place in this country and especially not in the United States Capitol. These images symbolize a time of racial discrimination and segregation that continues to haunt this country and many African-Americans who still to this day face racism and bigotry,” Thompson said in a statement to The Hill.
“It is past time for action to remove all Confederate symbols in the U.S. Capitol and on the Mississippi state flag.”
President Trump, meanwhile, pushed back against the initiatives to remove Confederate memorials during a press conference at Trump Tower on Tuesday.
“This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” Trump said.
Black Caucus members have urged the statues’ removal before without success, such as after the racially motivated shooting in 2015 at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine people.
At least nine statues honoring former Confederate leaders and military officers are featured in the Capitol as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection. Each state contributes two statues commemorating noteworthy citizens, which are placed in the former House chamber now known as National Statuary Hall, as well as the Rotunda, the room beneath the Rotunda known as the Crypt, the Capitol Visitor Center and the Hall of Columns.
Statuary Hall, which is just steps from the current House chamber, is home to depictions of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy; Alexander Hamilton Stephens, its vice president; and Zebulon Vance and Joseph Wheeler, who were both former Confederate military officers and members of Congress.
Statues of John C. Calhoun, the former vice president and slavery proponent, and Lee — not unlike the one in Charlottesville — are displayed a floor below in the Capitol Crypt.
Tourists can also find Confederate statues in the Capitol Visitor Center, including military officers like Wade Hampton, James George and Edmund Kirby Smith.
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Source: The Hill