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House committee approves ‘Monument Protection Act’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The full House of Delegates will next consider a bill that opponents say is a backdoor effort to keep Confederate statues on public property in West Virginia.

The House Government Organization Committee passed the “West Virginia Monument and Memorial Protect Act” Monday afternoon.

Barbara Fleischauer

The bill, HB 2174, says no “statue, monument, memorial, nameplate, plaque, school, street, bridge, building, park, preserve, or reserve” erected in honor of military history can be removed from public property unless an entity in control of that property petitions the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office for a permit to removal. The office will decide if there’s good cause for removal.

The bill includes statues erected in connection with “the War Between” the states.

Opponents, Democrats on the committee, tried twice to amend the bill to take out protection for Civil War monuments but both amendments failed.

Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said she couldn’t vote for a bill that upheld those who believed in and practiced slavery.

“The idea that they should be honored just like any other important person in our state–I have real problems with that,” Fleischauer said. “That’s what I think the underlying purpose for this bill is.”

Geoff Foster

But Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, disagreed. He said the bill sets up a process for removal which the state currently doesn’t have.

“I understand there are characterizations being made but what this bill really does is it sets forth a process for removing a statue,” Foster, the committee’s vice chairman, said. “Why not make it where there’s a process to move one of these statues? It’s not saying they can’t be removed but you has to go through the Historic Preservation Office.”

There’s been ongoing discussion about the status of statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson on the state capitol grounds. The Capitol Building Commission has failed to act on requests for its removal. Gov. Jim Justice has said that’s a decision for the legislature to make.

The committee passed the bill 19-6 and sent it to the full House for consideration.

Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, said her support would not be coming.

“I think this bill really upholds white supremacy and it’s not something I want to be part of,” she said.

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