Your View: Moving Confederate statue is disrespectful to Alexandrians

Your View: Moving Confederate statue is disrespectful to Alexandrians

By David Norcross, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
Once again, city council has chosen to ignore the opinion, recommendation and report of a council-appointed advisory group or commission in its decision to request the relocation of the “Appomattox” statue from the intersection of Prince and South Washington streets to the Lyceum (“Council approves U.S. Route 1 name change,” September 22).

Council has unanimously rejected the work of a body it appointed for the purpose of making recommendations on the matter of Confederate memorials. The appointed body held five meetings, none of which were closed, took public testimony and offered a well-reasoned report to councilors. In the course of one council meeting, city councilors unanimously rejected those findings, with the exception of the recommendation as to street names.

The composition of the resident-led group is noteworthy. Of the seven members, only two were at-large, although there were many more applicants for at-large membership. The other five each represented a particular interest or a city commission.

One might conclude that council believed that such a membership could reliably be expected to support moving the statue. But three of the members of the group rep- resenting city commissions voted with the two at-large members to leave “Appomattox” in place. Confronted with a strong, broad-based recommendation to leave the statue in place, council predictably did what it intended to do from the beginning — vote to move the statue.

This is not the first time city council has chosen to ignore citizen input or advice, nor is it likely the last. In this case, it results in short shrift being given to a report that ran contrary to council’s wishes. Much is to be said in sup- port of leaving “Appomattox” where it has been since 1889. The report notes that clearly.

The Civil War played out in Alexandrians’ daily lives, as Union soldiers and Confederate supporters confronted one another every day. Families and businesses suffered from confiscation and ruin. All sides and all aspects of that terrible time need remembrance.

The statue was designed specifically for its present location and purposely placed precisely where it is by citizens with fresh memory of the occupation of the city. To change its location is to be disrespectful of those citizens as well as to those for whom it was and is dedicated.

There is no reason why the city should not have memorials reflecting many views of that terrible conflict. In fact, there is every reason that it should. History is not changed by the removal of memorials but the opportunity for greater understanding may be.