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Lee statue removal still under consideration

Herald Mail Media

Washington, August 1, 2020

A push to remove a controversial statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Antietam National Battlefield is continuing to get consideration in Congress, and could be wrapped with similar initiatives, according to a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown.

Brown, D-Md., who represents Maryland's 4th District, initially introduced a resolution calling for the removal of the statue in 2017 following a deadly gathering of extremists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va. It stalled in the House under a Republican majority.

Brown reintroduced the resolution in the current session. Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May and resulting protests and conversations about racism, Congress is taking anther look at the proposal, said Brown spokesman Christian Unkenholz.

 

U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-Md., whose district includes Washington County, is a co-sponsor of Brown's resolution.

The statue along Shepherdstown Pike near the Newcomer House just outside of Sharpsburg has been vandalized twice since June, with the most recent incident involving graffiti scrawled on it that read "BLM" and "You lost the war." The graffiti was covered until it could be removed, said Katie Liming, spokeswoman for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service.

The 24-foot likeness of the Confederate general atop a horse was erected on private land in 2003. The U.S. Park Service acquired the land two years later and incorporated it as part the battlefield.

On July 21, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on Brown's resolution.

It calls for the U.S. Department of the Interior to develop a plan to remove the statue. The Department of the Interior must also submit a time line to Congress for the work, according to Brown's proposal.

Brown testified during the hearing that Confederate monuments in national parks glorify "traitorous leaders, their cause of slavery and open rebellion against the United States of America."

 

"In my mind, there is only one side in the Civil War we should be honoring, the United States," Brown said.

Unkenholz said it appears that the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands will include Brown's resolution in a committee mark-up of a bills package, which is expected to include House Resolution 4135 from Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's nonvoting member of Congress. The resolution from Holmes seeks to remove a monument to Albert Pike near Judiciary Square in Washington, D.C.

Pike was an officer in the Confederate army. The monument was damaged earlier this year in protests following Floyd's death.

The third resolution likely to be in the bills package is House Resolution 7550 from U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-Va. It requests the U.S. Department of the Interior and other agencies to inventory Confederate works on certain public lands.

Unkenholz said the legislative package is expected to be ready by September. Then it will be up to House leadership in the fall as to what happens with the proposals, he said.

When asked about Antietam National Battlefield's reaction to Brown's proposal, Liming referred Herald-Mail Media to a previous statement from the National Park Service regarding the resolutions from Brown, Holmes and McEachin.

The statement said that while Congress has the power to make rules regarding federal property, Congress has also directed the National Park Service to conserve historical objects.

America was built on sacrifices and struggles that should not be forgotten, and the nation's parks, civil rights sites, battlefields, monuments and memorials are "critical resources that help tell America's full national story," the statement said.

As Congress considers the proposals, the National Park Service will continue to provide historical context to correct "any errors or reflect a fuller view" of past events, the statement said.

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