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DC Suburb Fights Hard To Tear Down Monument To Confederate Soldiers

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor

An ongoing battle between Alexandria officials and a Confederate advocacy group over a local statue seems to be at a standstill, even after the Alexandria City Council successfully voted to remove the sculpture earlier this month.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), an association for female descendants of Confederate soldiers, own the 127-year old “Appomattox” statue that sits in the midst of a busy intersection. The statue, though, rests upon city owned-land.

The mayor of Alexandria, Democrat Allison Silberberg, met with the UDC last week, including UDC President Deborah Mullins, hoping to negotiate terms that were palatable for both sides.

“We shared our frankly different perspectives but in a cordial, friendly way,” Silberberg told The Washington Post. “I respect her right to her opinion — I respect we have a different perspective on where the statue could be.”

Mullins seems to be trying to cooperate with city officials, but still refuses to go ahead with any eviction of the monument. But Mullins and the UDC are not the only obstructions for Silberberg.

Virginia has specific statutes prohibiting ordinances from changing the location of war memorials.

Lawmakers in the state who wish to at least move the statue are not too hopeful.

“I don’t think it’s a viable proposal, unless the Daughters of the Confederacy are willing to stand up and testify. I think it’s a non-starter,” Democratic state Sen. Adam Ebbin told The Washington Post.

The statue was first erected in 1889 by the Robert E. Lee Camp of the United Confederate Veterans. There are approximately 100 names inscribed on the base of the statue in order to honor the site where Confederate soldiers were able to temporarily hold off Union soldiers.

The statue was to remain in perpetuity, according to an 1890s law that said the statue “shall not be repealed, revoked, altered, modified, or changed by any future council or other municipal power or authority.”

“What’s offensive to me might not be offensive to you, and vice versa. Everybody should be able to celebrate their heritage,” Mullins told The Washington Post in 2009.

Alexandria City Council successfully voted to forbid the flying of Confederate flags by the city last year. It doesn’t appear likely the statue will be removed despite some civil unrest.

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