Judge Wants Hearing Before Arlington Statue Comes Down

Republican lawmakers object to removal of Confederate monument
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2023 12:02 PM CST
Updated Dec 18, 2023 4:23 PM CST
Confederate Statue Counts Down Its Final Days in Arlington
The Confederate memorial slated for removal.   (Arlington National Cemetery)

This file has been updated with the judge's order.
A temporary restraining order is blocking the removal of a monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, at least until a court hearing considers the issue. US District Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. made the decision Monday in response to a lawsuit filed by a group called Defend Arlington, the Hill reports. Cemetery officials said Friday that they planned to have the statue gone by the end of this week. The suit accuses the Defense Department of breaking its rules by moving so quickly and says the monument would be damaged in the process. The hearing is planned for Wednesday morning, and the restraining order expires that day at 5pm.

Removal also would impede the memorial's eligibility to be included on the National Register of Historic Places, the lawsuit says. The cemetery describes the 1914 statue as including "a bronze woman, crowned with olive leaves" atop a 32-foot stand. It has the figure of a Black woman named "Mammy" holding onto what seems to be the child of a white officer, and the figure of "an enslaved man following his owner to war," per the AP. A biblical inscription at the olive leaf-sporting woman's feet reads: "They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks."

NPR notes that legislation was passed by Congress in 2021 that mandated the Defense Department look into removing Confederate "names, symbols, displays, monuments, or paraphernalia," and in 2022, a commission set up in response to that legislation recommended taking this particular memorial down. Per that commission's report, the Arlington monument shows a "nostalgic, mythologized vision of the Confederacy, including highly sanitized depictions of slavery." The cemetery notes that the monument's bronze pieces will be removed, and that its "granite base and foundation will remain in place to avoid disturbing surrounding graves" in the cemetery.

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The dismantling has been protested by more than three dozen Republican congressmen, led by Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde, who wrote a letter last week to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin insisting that the statue "commemorates reconciliation and national unity." Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin also isn't happy about the statue's removal; he'd like to see the statue put on display at a Civil War museum operated by the Virginia Military Institute. A cemetery spokeswoman tells the New York Times that the plan calls for the monument to be kept in storage until further plans for it can be made. (More Arlington National Cemetery stories.)

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