Statue Controversy

Helen Ehrlich, News Editor

Tensions have remained high in Virginia since the beginning of lawmakers’ efforts to remove Confederate statues from around the state, which began in 2015 after a hate crime shooting in a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina. A Conservative lawmaker from Lynchburg, Delegate Wendell Walker, decided he wanted to push back against this effort by fighting fire with fire – until it burned him back. 

Delegate Walker proposed removing a 10-foot statue of  Harry Byrd from Capitol Square in Richmond, VA. Harry Byrd was a governor of Virginia, and one of the state’s most famous and influential Democrats to date. He was also a staunch segregationist. Walker had hoped that by proposing a bill to remove Byrd’s statue, Democrats would back down about removing other Confederates, he told the Washington Post, “It’s kind of like playing chess. You’re just calling somebody’s bluff.” 

Unfortunately for Walker, Democrats embraced the effort and are supporting his bill with enthusiasm. After the proposal of the bill, Democrats expressed concern with Byrd’s segregationist views during the ’50s and ’60s. Walker is now trying to kill the bill after the show of support from Democrats, citing a fear of setting a precedent that would harm his anti-statue removal cause.

Not all Democrats are supporting the removal of Byrd’s statue, but the bill will still likely pass in the House, despite Walker’s reversed efforts. This will likely remain to be a tense topic, due to the high saturation of Confederate monuments in the state. Virginia has the most Confederate monuments of any state in the United States, with over 223, due to the state’s history as the former capital of the Confederacy.