City of Roanoke takes first step to remove last Confederate monument

The Lee memorial in Roanoke.
The Lee memorial in Roanoke.(WDBJ)
Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 1:28 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -Monday, Roanoke City Council made its position clear, laying out in a resolution its “intent…to remove the Lee Monument.” The resolution is the first step needed to remove the monument, which is standing at Lee Plaza just outside City Hall.

“I really want to emphasize, that, unlike what we see going on in some other places, we’re going to follow the law,” said Council Member Bill Bestpitch.

Bestpitch says he’s frustrated by how slow the process will be, but encourages people to wait for local government. “If it takes a few more weeks to get this situation resolved, I hope everyone can remain patient and confident,” he said.

Council has faced pressure to remove the monument with people calling, emailing, and circulating two online petitions that have collected nearly 7,000 signatures.

“There’s people who encourage and support the idea,” said Roanoke resident Robin Barnhill, who started one of the petitions. “I think it’s time that we do something that’s going to make everybody comfortable. Not just one half of the population.”

But not everyone agrees removing the monument is the right call. During Monday’s council meeting, one man called in to argue the monument should be preserved.

“It has been there 60 years,” he said. “It seems appropriate to leave it there at least six more months to let emotions mellow a bit.”

The rest of the community will have their own chance to weigh in. The city has set a public hearing on the issue for August 17. If the city then votes to remove the monument, they’ll have to wait another 30 days for a battlefield, historical society, museum or other group to claim it.