A federal judge on Tuesday cleared the way for the removal of a Confederate monument from Arlington National Cemetery, just one day after a temporary restraining order halted a plan to move one of the most prominent monuments to the Confederacy from the most famous cemetery. from the country. .
The monument has been criticized for its sanitized depiction of slavery, and its removal is part of a military effort to remove Confederate symbols from bases, ships and other facilities. Dozens of Republican lawmakers have opposed removing the monument.
In his ruling, Judge Rossie David Alston Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found that a group called Defend Arlington had not shown that it was in the public interest for the monument to remain and that its claims of that nearby graves were at risk of damage were “misinformed or misleading.”
At a hearing that same day, Judge Alston said he had toured the site and “did not see any grave desecration,” according to The Associated Press.
“The grass wasn't even touched,” he said.
Dismantling of the monument was halted Monday after Defend Arlington, affiliated with an organization called Save Southern Heritage Florida, requested a restraining order. The group had filed a lawsuit Sunday against the Department of Defense, alleging that the decision to tear down the monument was hasty and that work to remove it would damage surrounding graves and headstones.
The monument, which was funded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, features a woman representing the American South standing on a 32-foot pedestal, according to the cemetery. Near the base are dozens of life-sized Confederate soldiers along with mythical gods and two enslaved black people.
One is of a black woman holding the son of a Confederate officer, and the other is of a man “following his owner to war,” according to the cemetery's description.
The removal process will continue immediately, cemetery spokesperson Kerry L. Meeker said in an emailed statement.
“While the work is carried out, the surrounding graves, headstones and landscape will be carefully protected by a dedicated team, preserving the sanctity of all who are laid to rest,” he said.
The monument is expected to be removed on Friday, December 22, Ms. Meeker said. It will then be stored in a secure facility “until final disposition is determined.”
“While we respect the Court's decision, we continue to believe that the evidence shows that in its rush to remove the Reconciliation Memorial, the Department of Defense failed to conduct reviews required by law regarding historic preservation and impacts. environmental issues,” said Defend attorney John Rowley. Arlington said in an emailed statement.
More than 40 Republican members of Congress signed a letter last week arguing that the monument did not commemorate the Confederate States of America but rather “reconciliation and national unity” between the North and South.
But for others, including members of the Commission on Nominations, the intricate images and inscriptions etched in bronze venerate the narrative of the Lost Cause, the myth that the Southern rebellion was a noble fight for states' rights. The United Daughters, made up of descendants of men who had served in the armed forces or the Confederate government, raised money for the monument and many others that presented a romanticized view of the Confederacy and a sanitized view of slavery, say the historians.
Alison Parker, a historian at the University of Delaware, said such monuments, which were erected in the early 20th century, were about “a certain kind of reification of a nostalgia that is based on the notion that slavery was not really so bad, that people weren't really hurt by it and that they were, in fact, part of that so-called happy family on the plantation.”
Professor Parker said there is “a misconception about the notion that these monuments should be preserved as a representation of history, in the sense that they are historic and therefore should remain.”
“In some cases, I think it's okay to tear down these types of monuments because they still have hurtful meanings today,” he said.
Rebeca Carballo and Orlando Mayorquin contributed with reports.
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