RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond mayoral candidate Joe Morrissey wants to see the Jefferson Davis statue removed from Monument Avenue.
Morrissey, labeled the front runner in the mayoral race based on an August poll, said the Davis statue is "a political statue that glorified a failed political organization and championed a cause – slavery – that all Americans now find abhorrent."
The Va Flaggers, an organization dedicated to preserving Confederate monuments and memorials, called Morrissey's plan illegal.
"We are disappointed to learn that Joe Morrissey has called a press conference to announce that should he somehow manage to be elected Mayor of Richmond, the first thing he would do is tear down the Jefferson Davis Memorial on Monument Avenue," Grayson Jennings, with the Va Flaggers, said. "Tearing down historical monuments is illegal in the Commonwealth. We would hope that Mr. Morrissey is familiar enough with Virginia State Law to know this."
Morrissey's plan called for the removal of only Jefferson Davis statue.
"We see this for what it is... a publicity stunt designed to intentionally create division and tension where it does not exist," Jennings continued. "Mr. Morrissey cannot legally destroy the monument, and this press conference is nothing more than an attempt to garner attention for his latest political campaign, and stir up trouble in our community."
Morrissey is the only candidate to take a strong position on removing the statue.
Mosby, Baliles, Berry, Tyler, and Williams all said “no” to removing statues from Monument Avenue in a forum organized by Doug Wilder.
Junes did not attend.
Levar Stoney said in a statement released Monday after Morrissey’s press conference.
“There is no better place than Richmond to begin leading the conversation about what we choose to memorialize. Let’s start the discussion with Jefferson Davis.”
Virginia law prohibits localities from removing war monuments or memorials, but the law is murky.
Governor Terry McAuliffe believes localities do have that authority, and the only court in the state that ever ruled on the issue says it's not retroactive to anything before 1998, according to the Governor’s spokesperson Brian Coy.