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Nancy Pelosi calls for immediate removal of Confederate statues from halls of Congress

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing to remove almost a dozen Confederate statues that are currently displayed in the Capitol complex.

The California Democrat called for “immediately” removing statues of Confederate soldiers and officers from the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, making her demands about the 11 statues in a letter to the Joint Committee on the Library.

(Image: CBC News screenshot)

“As I have said before, the halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy. The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation,” Pelosi wrote to Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the chairman and vice chairwoman of the panel which manages the National Statuary Hall Collection.

“Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals. Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed,” Pelosi added.

Statues in Birmingham and Mobile, Ala.; Louisville, Ky., Jacksonville, Fla. and Alexandria, Va., have been removed and other localities are making similar moves in the wake of protests around the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Demands for reforms to the criminal justice system and the defunding of law enforcement have been topics of contention as have renewed calls for the removal of historical symbols of America’s divided past.

As NASCAR announced the banning all Confederate flags at its racing events this week, protesters in Richmond, Virginia and Boston vandalized long-standing statues of Christopher Columbus while Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced he would remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, a move temporarily blocked by a judge.

Democrats attempted unsuccessfully to remove Confederate statues back in 2017 when Pelosi wrote to then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“The Confederate statues in the halls of Congress have always been reprehensible,” she wrote in August 2017. “If Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy, I call upon Speaker Ryan to join Democrats to remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately.”

Now, the Democrats plan to introduce a bill to have the statues removed, though Pelosi contends it is not an effort to erase history.

“While I believe it is imperative that we never forget our history lest we repeat it, I also believe that there is no room for celebrating the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy in the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol or in places of honor across the country,” she wrote.

“Among these 11 are Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, President and Vice President of the Confederate States of America, respectively, both of whom were charged with treason against the United States,” she added.

Lofgren agreed with Pelosi on the request to remove the statues from the halls of Congress.

“I agree that the Joint Committee and Architect of the Capitol should expediently remove these symbols of cruelty and bigotry from the halls of the Capitol. I stand ready, and call on the Chair of the Joint Committee to swiftly approve the removal of these statues,” the chair of the House Administration Committee said in a statement.

“Especially at this time in the nation’s history, when the country is galvanized by the killing of George Floyd and riveted by tens of thousands of Americans peacefully demonstrating against institutional racism, to have statues of Confederates in Statuary Hall is really at odds with who we are as a country and what we aspire to be,” Lofgren told ABC News.

Blunt, meanwhile, believes that each state, which decides on the two statues to be added to the collection on Capitol Hill, must make the decision on replacing the existing Confederate figures.

“Under the law, each state decides which two statues it will send to the Capitol. Several states have moved toward replacing statues and others appear headed in the same direction,” he said in a statement.

“This process is ongoing and encouraging. As Speaker Pelosi is undoubtedly aware, the law does not permit the Architect of the Capitol or the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library to remove a statue from the Capitol once it has been received.”

The move by Pelosi and Democrats comes as the president has been pressed to rename 10 Army bases currently named for Confederate leaders.

Trump tweeted that “my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

“Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with,” he added. “Respect our Military!”

Frieda Powers

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