Chuck Myers/MCT/Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) — In the wake of the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, that was sparked by plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the mayor of nearby Richmond said that while he respects President Donald Trump’s views on Confederate monuments, the president “doesn’t live here.”
Richmond is the former capital of the Confederacy, and the events in Charlottesville have reignited a longstanding debate over five Confederate statues dotting the city’s Monument Avenue.
Mayor Levar Stoney told This Week co-anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday, “I appreciate the president’s opinion, but here in the city of Richmond, I don’t think that frankly matters. He doesn’t live here.”
The mayor’s comments come five days after President Trump compared Confederate leaders to the nation’s founding fathers.
“So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee,” Trump said at a press conference on Aug. 15. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s 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?”
Stoney initially agreed that the monuments should remain, but that historical context should be added to them. But, following the violence in Charlottesville, he revised his position and is now in favor of their removal.
“We’ve seen that these are now rallying points for people to harbor hate and division and intolerance, and those are not with the values of this city,” the mayor said at a This Week panel at the American Civil War Museum in Richmond that also included the co-CEO of the museum, Christy Coleman, and Kristin Szakos, a City Council member from Charlottesville.
Stoney said he “doesn’t believe that there is a comparison at all” between Confederate figures and the nation’s founding fathers.
Szakos agreed, saying that statues of Washington and Jefferson portray them “writing the Declaration of Independence or being president,” while Confederate monuments portray people “fighting a war against the United States for the perpetuation of slavery, and that’s not something our community celebrates.”
Coleman said there are people who don’t view Confederate monuments as “racist.” “They view them as a memorial to a sacrifice that people made for their homes.”
That view is clearly “part of the narrative,” Coleman said. She added, however, that it is natural for questions to arise about the monuments and the Confederate figures they depict.
“History is always a process of new questions.” Coleman said. “Every generation asks a new question.”
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