‘Controversial’ Arlington Memorial Removed

A Confederate statue at the Arlington National Cemetery will be removed in the coming days despite efforts from a group of Republican lawmakers to keep it in place.

The statue, known as the Reconciliation Monument, has been the subject of controversy as part of the push to remove Confederate memorials from military installations following the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020. The move to remove the statue is in compliance with a Congressional mandate passed last year, which requires the Department of Defense to remove all “names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America” by Jan. 1, 2024.

According to a press release from the national cemetery, the Confederate Statue will be removed by December 22. As a result, safety fencing has been installed around the monument to protect the surrounding landscape, graves, and headstones during the deconstruction process.

The decision to remove the statue has prompted backlash from a group of GOP lawmakers, led by Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the lawmakers argued that the monument does not honor the Confederacy, but rather commemorates reconciliation and national unity following the Civil War. They also claimed that removing the statue would desecrate the graves of Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

Despite bipartisan support for keeping the memorial in place, the Naming Commission established by the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act recommended its removal. This has led to criticism from lawmakers who believe the commission overstepped its authority.

Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia also voiced his disagreement with the decision to remove the statue and the accompanying grave of Moses Ezekiel, the renowned sculptor of the memorial. Youngkin’s spokeswoman stated that the governor has formally asked Secretary Austin to ensure that Ezekiel’s grave and the memorial remain in their current location. While disappointed with the decision, Youngkin believes that the Newmarket Battlefield State Park in the Shenandoah Valley will provide an appropriate backdrop for Ezekiel’s legacy as a legendary sculptor and Virginian.

The governor’s statement came shortly after a letter from 44 House Republicans urging the Biden administration to keep the Confederate Memorial in place until the end of the fiscal year 2024 appropriations process.

According to the letter, the memorial at Arlington National Cemetery does not represent the Confederacy but rather symbolizes reconciliation and national unity. It also highlights Ezekiel’s legacy as a celebrated artist and Virginian.