House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demanded the removal of 11 statues of Confederate soldiers and officials in the U.S. Capitol, just hours after President Donald Trump said he would not rename military bases named after Confederate commanders.
Pelosi sent out a letter on Wednesday, addressing the chairs of the Joint Committee on the Library, which manages the National Statuary Hall collection, asking for the removal of the statues.
The California Democrat wrote in the letter:
"Let us lead by example. To this end, I request the Joint Committee on the Library direct the Architect of the Capitol to immediately take steps to remove these 11 statues from display in the United States Capitol."
Among those displayed in the Capitol, the statue of General Robert E Lee was a gift from Virginia. The statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was a contribution from Mississippi and that of Alexander Hamilton Stephens was given by Georgia. In the letter to the committee, Pelosi said Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, President and Vice President of the Confederate States of America, respectively, had been charged with treason against the U.S.
Mississippi had gifted the statue of Confederate James Zachariah George, while that of John E Kenna was from West Virginia. South Carolina gave the statue of Wade Hampton and North Carolina gifted Zebulon Vance's statue. Joseph Wheeler's statue came from Alabama, Edward Douglass White's was from Louisiana and Arkansas gifted the statue of Uriah Milton Rose, an attorney who sided with the Confederacy.
The statue of Edmund Kirby Smith, a general in the Confederate Army, was already expected to be replaced. Most of the Confederates commanders in the collection are depicted in uniform. The request from Pelosi comes as the U.S. has been gripped by nationwide protests and unrest over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota in police custody. The brutal incident that took place on Memorial Day sparked calls for police reform and accountability and launched a push for reform in Congress.
This is not the first time that Pelosi called for the removal of Confederate statues in the Capitol. The debate over the statues broke out in 2017 after a man drove his car into a crowd that was protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The act resulted in the killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was demonstrating with dozens of others against the "Unite the Right" rally. Later, Pelosi called on then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, to join the Democrats in backing legislation to take down the statues.
In the Midst of the US Protests
Instead of making a statement to calm down the situation, Trump's tweets made things worse, and his moves have been under criticism from the first day of the protests. On Wednesday, he sparked another debate, as he said that he rejected any effort by the U.S. military to rename the nearly one dozen major bases and installations that include the names of Confederate military commanders.
He Tweeted that:
"These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a ... history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations."
The Joint Committee of the Library, which includes Republican and Democratic lawmakers and chaired by GOP Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, would need to vote on a majority vote to remove the statues from display in the Capitol. On Wednesday, Blunt told media that states need to determine which people from their respective histories are honored in the Statuary Hall collection.