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City of Norfolk files federal lawsuit to remove Confederate monument

Posted at 11:56 AM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 12:48:51-04

NORFOLK, Va. – The City of Norfolk filed a lawsuit Monday against the Commonwealth of Virginia to have the Confederate monument located downtown removed.

Court documents list the city and Norfolk City Council as the plaintiffs and the state; Gregory D. Underwood, the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney; and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring as the defendants in the case, WTKR reports.

The Confederate monument is located on Main Street in Downtown Norfolk. It was built and dedicated in 1907, and city council appropriated funds to contribute to the cost of its construction and installation.

“Unlike other cities, Norfolk’s Monument has a specific connection to the City, is owned by the City, and presents its message of remembrance exclusively to viewers living, working, staying, traveling and touring in Norfolk,” the lawsuit says.

The suit argues that because the monument is considered part of the city’s speech, the city has a constitutional right to alter that speech and that the Commonwealth cannot take that right away. Also, because the monument is city property, the city has a constitutional right to control who can tamper with it and where to move it.

According to the court documents, the city wants the court to declare the law that protects the statue as a violation of the free speech clause of the First Amendment and the due process clause of the 14th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution as well as the freedom of speech clause in the Virginia Constitution.

In April, WTKR reported that two local activists, Roy Perry-Bey and Ronald Green, restarted their legal battle to move the monument, dismissing their original case against the city and filing a new one. The two sued the city and the city attorney’s office in an effort to move the statue to a cemetery.

City leaders expressed support for moving the monument but said state law prevents them from interfering with war memorials. City council members passed a resolution advocating moving the statue, but it still hasn’t gone anywhere.