Confederate Memorial at Arlington Cemetery to Be Removed After Judge Reverses Earlier Decision

Katabella Roberts
By Katabella Roberts
December 20, 2023US News
Confederate Memorial at Arlington Cemetery to Be Removed After Judge Reverses Earlier Decision
Workers prepare a Confederate Memorial for removal in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Dec. 18, 2023. (Kevin Wolf/AP Photo)

A federal judge on Tuesday reversed a previous court ruling and allowed the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to remove a century-old Confederate monument.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Rossie Alston issued a temporary injunction on the removal of the monument that was erected in honor of soldiers who died fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War to allow time to hear arguments against the removal.

However, in a hearing on Tuesday, the judge ultimately rejected arguments made in a lawsuit filed by a group called “Defend Arlington,” affiliated with “Save Southern Heritage Florida,” which had urged the court to order the memorial remain undisturbed.

In his ruling, the judge wrote that the case “attempts to place this court at the center of a great debate between individuals extolling the virtues, romanticism, and history of the Old South and equally passionate individuals, with government endorsement, who believe that art accentuating what they believe is a harsh depiction of a time when a certain race of people were enslaved and treated like property is not deserving of a memorial at a place of refuge, honor and national recognition.”

“To be sure, this Court’s disposition does not have to resolve this great debate but rather is decided on the relevant case law, statutory law, and administrative direction which governs this Court’s decision,” he added.

Judge Alston’s ruling clears the way for the U.S. Department of Defense to continue with its planned removal of the memorial.

The Confederate monument at the center of the lawsuit was erected in 1914 and is described by the Arlington National Cemetery as “an enslaved woman depicted as a ‘Mammy,’ holding the infant child of a white officer” and “an enslaved man following his owner to war.”

Pentagon Directs Dismantling

According to the cemetery: “The elaborately designed monument offers a nostalgic, mythologized vision of the Confederacy, including highly sanitized depictions of slavery. Standing on a 32-foot-tall pedestal, a bronze, classical female figure, crowned with olive leaves, represents the American South.”

However, the memorial is one of many statues that have been seen by many as monuments to racism, and in 2021, the Pentagon directed it to be dismantled following a recommendation from an independent Naming Commission established by Congress.

In their lawsuit, Defend Arlington had argued that the hasty removal of the monument by the Army, which runs the cemetery, violates environmental regulations—specifically the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider significant impacts on historic resources—and the work would disturb nearby graves.

“The removal will desecrate, damage, and likely destroy the Memorial longstanding at ANC as a grave marker and impede the Memorial’s eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places,” the lawsuit stated.

Removal Will Go Ahead

However, in Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Alston said he had visited the site and saw nothing to suggest that graves have been desecrated by the removal, which initially began on Monday before being paused.

“The Court also personally visited the Memorial and it was clear to the Court that Defendants were making every effort to protect and respect the surrounding gravesites,” he wrote. “Accordingly, Plaintiffs failed to meet the requirements for ex parte injunctive relief as set forth in the Rules, and the temporary injunction will be vacated. ”

At Tuesday’s hearing, an attorney representing Defend Arlington, Karen C. Bennett said she disagreed with what the judge had seen during his visit to the cemetery and described seeing machinery encroaching on one grave and gravestones being temporarily removed, The Washington Post reports.

In a statement to the Washington Post after Tuesday’s ruling, cemetery spokeswoman Kerry Meeker said the removal would go ahead as planned.

“In accordance with this evening’s court ruling, the Army will resume the deliberate process of removing the Confederate Memorial from Arlington National Cemetery immediately,” Ms. Meeker said. “While the work is performed, surrounding graves, headstones and the landscape will be carefully protected by a dedicated team, preserving the sanctity of all those laid to rest in Section 16.”

The Epoch Times has contacted a spokesperson for Defend Arlington for comment.

From The Epoch Times

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