I want all Confederate monuments gone.
August 13, 2017 1:29 AM   Subscribe

Many, many courthouses in Virginia still have confederate monuments. I want to find a way to have my local courthouse's Confederate monument removed. And, with any luck, inspire folks in other VA localities to start similar movements. What do I do to start this process? Advice? Links with info on how others have successfully pushed for the removal of Confederate monuments and flags?

I'm thinking:

- Start a Twitter account to gain support, get the word out.
- Start a petition (what is the best petition platform?)
- I'm not sure what 'people in power' I need to be going to for support on this. Suggestions?
- I realize I may be setting myself up to be harassed, threatened, etc. How do I do this while maintaining minimum risk to myself and anyone who helps and supports this effort?

Thank you in advance for your ideas. If you'd prefer to respond to me directly, I set up an email: getridofconfederates@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I live in Alexandria, VA, where there are some current movements - getting city council members on board seems to have been critical (should note that the city of Alexandria leans heavily left).

1) The part of Rt 1 that runs through Alexandria goes by many names, including "Jefferson Davis Highway." The city voted unanimously to rename this portion of the road, and is currently in the process of seeking new names. There is some backlash, but the process is approved and is going forward.

2) In the center of town and main thoroughfare, there is a large confederate memorial (that faces south). It's literally in the middle of a main and highly trafficked road. Last year, the city council voted unanimously to move it to another location (inside a local museum, I believe). But war memorials (even Confederate ones) cannot be moved according to Virginia state law, so the issue is currently caught in some red tape by VA state legislators, who have declined to bring a bill forward to the state legislature to amend the law. This appears to have some more backlash than the Rt.1 renaming. So the memorial/statue remains for now, indefinitely...
posted by raztaj at 3:07 AM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Given the state law, obviously enacted to prevent local county boards from making this decision for themselves, the OP needs to persuade state legislators to repeal that law or work to elect legislators who will.
posted by megatherium at 4:09 AM on August 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Join the movement to Flip the VA legislature.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:18 AM on August 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

IANA expert in removing confederate monuments but I would suggest a few things based on my background in community development. Forgive me if I am going over things that you already know and/or are doing. But what you are talking about is, basically, organizing and influencing in order to effect change. I'm also not an expert in that, but I do know that there are a lot of people doing that around just about any issue you could care about, and some who have been doing it for decades. As you've probably already thought about, there is no need to reinvent the wheel here so seek out those who have done this before, and done it well, and get their support. Particularly those whose who are in your area and are fighting for the same issue or related issues. They will show you what works and give you so much nuanced insight into how to approach this. Also think about what organizations already exist that may want to be part of this? Are there groups already working on this? I bet there are or that would want to. They may even be able to lead the charge and help with strategy, connections, resources, etc.

Here are a few other thoughts of my own based on my experience in community development and collaboration. Take what's useful and leave the rest:

A) Build relationships, invite people to join you, and do a lot of research (which you're already doing!) Keep in mind that, when it comes down to it, a person (or many persons) needs to make the decision to remove the monument. And for some reason, that hasn't happened yet. Figure out who that person (or people) are. Then, figure out whether any of them might be interested in joining up with you to address this. At least some of the people in power are already on your side of this issue and you all need to work together. Think not only about the people with the power to make the decision, because you may or may not have direct access to them, but think about people who are between you and them. Who can help you get closer and would be up for helping you? Find people, build relationships with them and form a team. These are people you want to "invite in" to your effort and work with up front, as a team. Find the people who know more than you or have more power than you. People who have the ability to make or influence the decision and who understand the power structures in your state, and are willing to talk to you about this and possibly even join in your effort. They will be able to tell you what they need in order to make this happen (is it a petition? is it a nationally-televised protest? a bunch of embarrassing news articles? support from the governor and/or state legislature?...), what the obstacles are to it, why it hasn't already happened, what the process of approving the removal would be and who has to sign off, etc. This is going to be different in every city/state/area so it's important to talk to and work with those who understand the system.

B) Definitely study how it has played out in other cities that are removing their monuments. (You ask about this in your question which is great.) A starting point would be to read about them in news articles you can pull up in a few seconds with a Google search. But - keep in mind that what makes it into the news is definitely not the whole story. Most of the process will never be written about because no one did the investigating and/or because it is so mundane in some ways, that why would they write it up? But it's important if you want to understand what it took to make it happen. So after you get the lay of the land through what you can find online, reach out to key people in those cities who were involved and ask them to advise you in your quest. They have been there before and can help you shortcut to what works, warn you about what didn't work, etc.

New Orleans and St. Louis are two cities that come to mind. Monuments were removed from public property and in both cases, the mayor played a strong role. Public support and pressure certainly had an influence in those cases; but I'm sure that wasn't the only influence on them, there's no way it could be. Look into what else influenced them or could have influenced them or supported them. Was it their local city council? Was there support from other influential/powerful people or corporations or nonprofits organizations in their city? etc.

C) You and your team should get very clear about why you are pushing for removal.
Even among people who are strongly against the ideals of the confederacy, there's debate about whether to bring down these monuments. One argument against bringing them down is that "we need to remember our history, especially the most terrible parts so that we don't repeat them." I think the mayor of New Orleans does a great job arguing against that line of reasoning in this speech - but it's something to consider and know where you stand, because it's something you're going to hear.

(That speech is great and worth watching in its entirety.)

D) Related, you'll have to think about logistics at some point - because that is a barrier to removal, too. It costs money to remove a monument (probably a lot. they're big and heavy!). Where does the money come from? What happens to the monuments after they are removed?

E) There are so many resources out there for you - books, articles, etc. - on organizing and influencing and effecting change. Whatever areas you are less experienced in, look them up and learn. Ask for recommendations from people who do this work. One that I would really recommend is "Getting To Yes" which describes some approaches to negotiation - which is basically what you're doing. It's not very long and you can get the audiobook to listen to while cleaning or commuting.

F) Look for creative, compelling ways to make your case and invite people to participate, too. Seriously consider bringing artists onto your team. The arts are an incredibly powerful tool for social change and there is a whole movement, a field, of people who do this work. Look up "community arts", "arts-based community development", or "art for social change", etc. and you'll find some great examples. The US Department of Arts and Culture is a great resource. (www.usdac.org) So is Animating Democracy. (animatingdemocracy.org)

If you want to chat more, I'm always happy to talk - send me a message!
posted by inatizzy at 4:46 AM on August 13, 2017 [12 favorites]

[A couple deleted. Ask Metafilter is not for general discussion or debate about the topic, but to help answer the OP's question, so let's stick to that. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 7:09 AM on August 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

In my experience, with an established issue like this, it's easier and more effective to join forces with a group that is already on it, rather than starting from scratch on your own. I'd recommend contacting the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 7:35 AM on August 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

I think removing the confederate statues is a result, and you would do better to organize a movement to treat the cause, specifically...

Similar to South Africa after Apartheid, some sort of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or similar. I know this seems obvious to me and you, but there are folks who do not understand that owning other human beings is an atrocity, and that generational trauma has been experienced on all sides as a consequence of this practice. We collectively need a forum, an airing out of our dirty laundry, open discussions.

The UFO Disclosure movement held a Citizens Hearing back in (I think?) 2013 that was fairly impressive and featured opening remarks by Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, along with testimony by many credible professionals and officials. I don't know why we have never had an official open forum to discuss race and systemic oppression and atrocities in the US, but we are long long long overdue for this discussion. It would make getting rid of these statues a no-brainer. And didn't Germany do something similar after WWII? I think they did. There was definitely some sort of reconciliation movement to help folks process, heal, and to never ever again make those sorts of mistakes as a nation.

We desperately need this sort of official conversation and reconciliation in the United States. Maybe you can be the one to start the call for a nationwide conference and conversation on this issue?

Arguing about statues and flags accepts the other side has a valid point. A thorough national conversation about our inhumanity towards each other abolishes any possibility anyone might argue for keeping these deeply flawed and tramatic symbols of our shameful past. You want those symbols gone, I think the wayto do this is to heal the wound they represent.

I believe in your cause. Let me know if I can be of service.
posted by jbenben at 10:48 AM on August 13, 2017

Oops. My point was if the ufo folks could organize something so impressive over little green men (I'm pretty sure it aired on C-Span, it had a panel of former congress people and senators? It was something like 24 hrs of straight testimony, I think??) Surely an issue as important as race inequality and systemic oppression and abuse should be able to have a formaized discussion a thousand times more powerful and effective organized to address it.
posted by jbenben at 11:00 AM on August 13, 2017

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