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Citing safety worries, Norfolk to move Confederate monument

June 11, 2020 GMT

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The mayor of Norfolk announced Thursday that out of concern for public safety, crews will relocate a statue that sits atop a tall Confederate monument in the city’s downtown.

The move comes a day after a man in his 30s suffered life-threatening injuries when protesters toppled a statue in nearby Portsmouth.

Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander cited the man’s injuries and said that out of an abundance of caution, the statue would be moved to a historic cemetery. He said the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans had been consulted and did not oppose the move.

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Norfolk owns the monument, which includes the statue of a soldier nicknamed “Johnny Reb” as well as the seal of the former Confederacy.

After a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, city council members passed a resolution expressing their desire to remove it. But a state law protecting memorials to war veterans prohibited Norfolk from doing so.

That law was rewritten earlier this year by the new Democratic majority at the General Assembly and will give localities the ability to decide what to do with monuments. Alexander acknowledged that the new version doesn’t go into effect until July 1 but said he thinks public safety trumps waiting.

He said the statue would be removed in the next 24 hours, weather permitting, and the remaining pieces of the column would be taken down in coming weeks.