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Across Virginia

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — The city of Virginia Beach removed a 115-year-old Confederate monument from public grounds on Saturday, less than two days after the City Council voted unanimously to do so.

Workers took down the 27-foot (8.2-meter) tall monument on Saturday morning, media outlets reported. It was installed in 1905 and stood outside the old Princess Anne County courthouse, in the same place that slave auctions were once held.

The council voted unanimously Thursday night to begin the removal process. The council had listened to dozens of speakers and decided the monument is viewed by many as divisive and a painful reminder of the past.

The statue recently had been completely covered, with a locked gate around it following recent protests and vandalism at other Confederate monuments.

The monument will be stored for now. The city now must wait for any offers from historical groups or other entities that might want to take the monument.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia has removed from its iconic state capitol the busts and a statue honoring Confederate generals and officials. That includes a bronze statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee positioned in the same spot where he stood to assume command of the state’s armed forces in the Civil War nearly 160 years ago.

They are the latest Confederate symbols to be removed or retired in the weeks since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked a nationwide protest movement.

Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, a Democrat, quietly ordered the Lee statue and busts of generals J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and others removed from the historic Old House Chamber. A moving crew worked through the night Thursday — carefully removing the monuments and their plaques and loading them into a truck and taking them to an undisclosed location.

“Virginia has a story to tell that extends far beyond glorifying the Confederacy and its participants,” Filler-Corn said in a statement. “Now is the time to provide context to our Capitol to truly tell the commonwealth’s whole history.”

Designed by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia State Capitol is the first state capitol to open after the American Revolution and was used as the Confederacy’s Capitol during much of the Civil War.

Filler-Corn’s move to remove the Confederate generals comes a few weeks after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the removal of a different Lee monument — a 21-foot (6-meter) bronze equestrian sculpture on Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue.

A lawsuit has delayed that statue’s removal, but other Confederate monuments on the street — once one of the most prominent collection of tributes to the Confederacy in the nation — have already come down. And earlier this week, the U.S. House approved a bill to remove statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders from the U.S. Capitol. The bill’s prospects in the Senate are uncertain.

In Virginia, the Old House Chamber was where lawmakers first met when the Capitol opened in 1788 and was used as the House’s meeting place for more than 100 years before the Capitol building was expanded. It is not currently used for official purposes when the legislature meets.

Virginia delegates voted in the chamber to secede from the Union in April 1861. A few days later, Lee entered the room to take formal command of the state’s military.

“Trusting in almighty God, an approving conscience, and the aid of my fellow citizens, I devote myself to the service of my native state, in whose behalf alone will I ever again draw my sword,” Lee said, according to an inscription on the statue.

Seven years later, after the South lost the war, it was the same room where a new constitutional convention met that included Black delegates for the first time.

Like many Confederate monuments, most of those recently removed from Virginia’s Capitol were erected decades after the Civil War. They were commissioned and built during the Jim Crow era, when states imposed new segregation laws, and during the “Lost Cause” movement, when historians and others tried to depict the South’s rebellion as a fight to defend states’ rights, not slavery.

The Lee statue was approved in 1928 with the help of then-Gov. Harry Byrd, who would later go on to lead the state’s Massive Resistance to racially integrated schools. It’s $25,000 price tag (about $370,000 currently) was paid for by the state, donations and an in-kind donation from the sculptor.

Busts of Davis and Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, were donated to Virginia in the 1950s by Mississippi and Georgia.

Filler-Corn also announced she’s appointed Del. Delores McQuinn to lead a new advisory group to advise the speaker on “possible future actions” of other historical artifacts controlled by the House.

Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Del. Lamont Bagby hailed the monuments’ removal, saying “visitors from around the world have been greeted by these imposing symbols of treason and white supremacy for far too long.”

Republican House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert noted the Lee statue was a “historical marker” and mocked Filler-Corn’s commitment to telling the state’s history.

“Another historical reality is that the Capitol building itself served as the Confederate Capitol, a fact that should no doubt force the Speaker’s new Advisory Group to recommend that it be razed to the ground,” Gilbert said in a statement.

The Confederate monuments are not the only tributes to losing causes in and around the Capitol, a building built with slave labor where almost every portrait hanging on the walls is of a white man.

A large statue of Byrd, the arch segregationist, sits on Capitol Square and two portraits hang prominently in the Capitol.

In the House chamber, directly behind where House speakers preside, is a plaque honoring Nathaniel Bacon. He was wealthy colonist who led a failed rebellion in the 1670s whose aims including the unfettered killing of Indians and the seizing of their lands.

 

The State Fair of Virginia has been cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Thursday that the fair’s organizers were unable to find a way to pull it off safely. Pam Wiley, director of communications for the Virginia Farm Bureau, said staff spent months trying to figure out ways to make the fair work within state health guidelines. Wiley said the last time the fair was cancelled was during World War II. Before that it was during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918. More than 245,000 people attended the fair last year.

Virginia Republicans say they intend to address public education when the General Assembly reconvenes next month in special session – even if Governor Northam has not called for any consideration on that subject. Republicans say any steps that keep students out of school for any number of days puts them at a permanent disadvantage behind those schools that teach in person every day. More from WLNI’s Evan Jones:

07-20 GOP-Schools Wrap-WLNI WEB

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) – Liberty University has filed a lawsuit against The New York Times and one of its reporters, saying the newspaper intentionally misrepresented the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Virginia college campus. The complaint filed Wednesday said the Times, reporter Elizabeth Williamson and a photographer said the school suffered a COVID-19 outbreak when it reopened after spring break and that nearly a dozen students were sick with the virus. The school said the facts were just the opposite because they were told there were no known cases of COVID-19 at Liberty. A spokeswoman for the Times didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Governor Northam says his administration is leaving it up to local school boards to decide how many classes are taught in person or on line. The governor says unlike his statewide COVID-related regulations, public education is not an area where one size fits all, but one guideline in particular remains constant.  More from WLNI’s Evan Jones:

07-15 Northam-Education Wrap WLNI WEB

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The Port of Virginia plans to replace two diesel-powered, ship-to-shore cranes and several gas-powered container tractors with electric versions using $14 million it will receive from the state.

The money is part of the $93.6 million the state received from a federal settlement with Volkswagen that resolved allegations that the automaker violated the Clean Air Act by equipping thousands of diesel motor vehicles with software designed to cheat on federal emissions test. The Virginian-Pilot reported Friday that the port will use $10 million of the state’s gift and $10.1 million of its own money to cover the costs of the cranes.

“The port is trying to be holistic in its approach,” said John Reinhart, the port’s CEO and executive director, after highlighting other steps the port has taken to reduce emissions, including adding 26 new truck lanes to reduce idling.

The new cranes will be placed at the Norfolk International Terminals. Reinhart said they will reduce by 75,000 gallons the amount of diesel fuel used every year.

The remaining $4 million from the state will go toward five all-electric tractors and charging stations for the Richmond Marine Terminal.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Law enforcement authorities in Virginia Beach say firefighters on Saturday found the body of a woman in a burning dumpster.Police in a statement said officers responded to a report of a dumpster fire around 12:40 p.m. Firefighters discovered the body after they extinguished the fire.

The Virginia Beach Fire Department and the police department’s homicide unit are jointly investigating the case.Authorities did not provide any additional information.

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — Another Confederate monument has been targeted for removal in Virginia.

WTOP reports that officials in northern Virginia’s Loudoun County voted this week to return the statue of a Confederate soldier to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The statue is slated for removal on Sept. 7 from the government-owned property in Leesburg.

A new law in Virginia allows local governments to decide the fate of war monuments on their property.

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall, a Democrat, had long argued that the statue was a symbol of systemic racism.

Confederate monuments are coming down throughout the American South in the wake of protests against racism and police brutality. The wave of public sentiment was sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

Many Confederate statues were erected decades after the Civil War, during an era when Southern states were crushing attempts to achieve equality for Black people.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on Virginia’s state budget hasn’t been as bad as previously feared.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that Virginia ended fiscal 2020 with a $236.5 million budget shortfall, far less than anticipated. Overall, state revenues were up 2% from the previous fiscal year.

Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne said Virginia’s high concentration of federal employees and contractors as well as workers who can telecommute, have helped soften the financial impact. Virginia is home to the Pentagon and the world’s largest naval base, and the Department of Defense has long been the state’s largest employer.

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