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Judge Temporarily Bars Removal of Confederate Memorial in Virginia

Restraining order issued after a group filed a lawsuit and a letter that was signed by more than 40 Republican congressmen

A Confederate memorial was blocked on Monday from being removed from Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia, with a court order setting back the push to remove symbols that commemorate the Confederacy from military-related facilities.

A federal judge on Monday issued a temporary restraining order barring removal of a memorial to Confederate soldiers at the nation’s foremost military cemetery. A group called Defend Arlington, affiliated with a group called Save Southern Heritage Florida, filed a lawsuit Sunday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, seeking the restraining order. A hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday.

The decision also follows a recent demand from more than 40 Republican congressmen that the Pentagon suspend efforts to dismantle and remove the monument from Arlington cemetery.

Work to remove the memorial had begun Monday before the restraining order was issued, and the memorial remains in place on cemetery grounds.

A cemetery spokesperson said Monday that Arlington is complying with the restraining order, but referred all other questions to the US justice department.

Safety fencing has been installed around the memorial, and officials had expected to complete the removal by this upcoming Friday 22 December, the Arlington National Cemetery had previously said in an email.

Virginia’s governor, Glenn Youngkin, had previously disagreed with the removal decision.

In 2022, an independent commission recommended that the memorial be taken down as part of its final report to Congress on renaming of military bases and assets that commemorate the Confederacy.

The statue, unveiled in 1914, features a bronze woman, crowned with olive leaves, standing on a 32ft pedestal, and was designed to represent the American south. According to Arlington, the woman holds a laurel wreath, a plow stock and a pruning hook, with a biblical inscription at her feet that says: “They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

The installation includes a Black woman depicted as “Mammy” holding what is said to be the child of a white officer as well as an enslaved man following his owner to war.

In a recent letter to the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, more than 40 House Republicans had said the commission overstepped its authority when it recommended that the monument be removed. The congressmen contended that the monument “does not honor nor commemorate the Confederacy; the memorial commemorates reconciliation and national unity.

“The Department of Defense must respect Congress’s clear legislative intentions regarding the naming commission’s legislative authority,” the letter said.

Earlier this year, Fort Bragg shed its Confederate name to become Fort Liberty, part of the broad Department of Defense initiative, motivated by the 2020 George Floyd protests, to rename military installations that had been named after Confederate soldiers.

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations that erupted nationwide after Floyd’s killing by a white police officer, coupled with ongoing efforts to remove Confederate monuments, turned the spotlight on the army installations. The naming commission created by Congress visited the bases and met with members of the surrounding communities for input.

Source: The Guardian