During the meeting, Mayor John Rowe asked the city attorney if Portsmouth has the right to move the 127-year-old memorial. In 2018, a judge denied the city’s claim to own the monument because no one else had claimed it.
Protesters and the local chapter of the NAACP, a civil rights organization, have called for the 54-foot monument to be taken down, but some council members oppose removing it without a citywide vote, the TV station reported.
“Removing history is something I associate with bad government, communist government, fascist government,” Councilman Bill Moody said during the meeting. He said the monuments and museums exist “to remind us to never let this happen again.”
Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke suggested covering the statue until it’s relocated.
A Virginia law that allows cities to move or alter Confederate memorials they own goes into effect July 1.
Confederate monuments across the country have fallen in recent years amid debate over whether they are proud monuments to Southern heritage or hated symbols of racism and the era of slavery. The debate has intensified in the nationwide protests over police misconduct and racism after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Elsewhere in Virginia, a statue of Christopher Columbus in Richmond was torn down by protesters, set on fire and thrown into a lake Tuesday. The statue was toppled less than two hours after protesters gathered in the city’s Byrd Park were chanting for the statue to be taken down.