Removing Confederate monuments isn’t easy in Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. - The violence from this past weekend in Charlottesville has once again rekindled the debate about what to do with Confederate monuments.

A group topped a statue in Durham, N.C. on Monday night in protest.

In Charlottesville, the city council voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, but has faced questions over whether it has the authority to remove it. Virginia law says localities can't remove war memorials, but there is debate whether or not that applies to memorials built before the law was passed in 1998.

Norfolk has three Confederate monuments. Following the Charleston Church killings in 2015, there were calls to move the memorial in downtown, but city officials later decided against the idea.

In Portsmouth, City Councilman Mark Whitaker led the effort to remove the city's monument in downtown, but later faced questions about the cost and whether the city has the powers.

On the other side, there are plenty who say the nation can't forget its history. Corey Stewart, a politician and conservative activist, made it a key issue during his campaign for governor. "We have to stand up for our history and our heritage," Stewart told News 3 in May.

Jonathan Leib, a professor at ODU, says the debate isn't likely to die down any time soon. "Those who create [the monuments] can claim that they mean certain things," he said. "Different people walking by these monuments are going to interpret them in different ways."

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