tv Virginia Gov. Northam Holds Briefing on Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue CSPAN June 4, 2020 7:06pm-8:01pm EDT
the supreme court, and public policy events. you can watch all of c-span possible public affairs programming on television, online or on our free radio app and be part of the national conversation through the "washington journal" program or through our social media feeds. americanseated by people television company as a public service and brought to you today by your television provider. >> earlier today, virginia governor ralph northam held a briefing to discuss his decision to remove a robert ely statue in richmond. he added the statue will be put into storage at its future will be up to governor -- two government officials and community leaders. northam: good morning, everyone. ladies and gentlemen, it is
time. -- >> it is time to put an end to the laws because it fully embrace the righteous cause. it is time to replace the racist symbols of oppression and inequality, symbols that have dominated our landscape with symbols that represent and summon the best in all of us, in all of our people, ones that reflect the diverse, inclusive and equitable city we are today, and we continue to strive to be. it is time to heal, ladies and gentlemen. richmond is no longer at the confederacy. [applause] is time to show our community how much love we have here. it is time we embrace our
diversity. it is time we remove -- that hinder the dreams of black children in our community. years sinceplus these monuments were erected, we have known better. better during jim crow. we knew better during mass resistance. long before the black mens of young like george floyd. we have two ben 10 makes -- pandemics in this country, covid-19 and racism. one is six months old, the other 400 years old. as the events of the last months and the last two weeks have made painfully clear, both are lethal , especially for black and brown people. it is our responsibility to do
keep from we can to claiming more lives in this country and this world. we need to show that black and .rown lives matter this is our moral duty. we know better, and now that we know better, it is time to do better. the decision announced by the the ordinance and i will propose to our city council to remove all of our city controlled monuments on monument avenue, signal a new date for our city and our commonwealth. as a 39-year-old black men, the grandson of a housekeeper, made and son of a janitor, i could not be more proud of the decision we have made. i think you, governor, for your
leadership, and all of the rich ers and --richmond virginia nurse -- to promote reconciliation, healing, change and atonement for the past. the great writer james baldwin history is not the past. it is the present. " we are our history. this is a chance for us to write a new chapter in our history, our present history and to carry the story of a diverse and loving city and commonwealth with us.rward with that, i would like to introduce the governor of the commonwealth of virginia, governor ralph northam.
[applause] ralph northam: first of all , mayor, thank you so much for your powerful words, your leadership during difficult times. i want you to know that pam and i are proud to live in the city of richmond. thank you and good morning to everyone. i want to thank everyone watching from around virginia and around our great country, and i want to thank the many guests who have joined us as we chart a new course into virginia's history. today, we are here to be honest about our past and talk about our future. i am no historian, but i strongly believe we have to
confront where we have been in order to shape where we are going. in virginia, for more than 400 idealswe have set high about freedom and equality, but we have fallen short of many of them. most hopefulca's ed ford looking happened right and forwardful looking moments happened right here. when americans first dreamed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happyness, they dreamed here in our commonwealth. virginia adopted a declaration of rights before the united states declared independence. it said that all are equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights. it specifically called out
freedom of the press and freedom of religion, and in a church on a hill just 15 blocks from here, virginia's first elected governor helped launch the american revolution when he liberty, or give me death. that was patrick any -- patrick henry, and i now have the job that he held 72 governors ago. these are our greatest legacies as americans. there is a lot more to the story , because those inspiring words and high ideals did not apply to now.one, not then, and not because at the bottom of that very same hill, one of the countries largest slave trading
markets was coming to life, a place where virginians would sell men, women, and children for-profit. ing and selling other americans. this is just as much the american story as it is one we are only just now beginning to tell more fully. through 400 years of american history, starting with the enslavement of africans through the civil war, through jim crow, and massive resistance and mass incarceration, black oppression has always existed in this country, just in different forms. continues of racism
instancean isolated we saw in like minneapolis. our country will honor the life of george floyd in a memorial service at about three hours. the legacy of racism also continues as part of a system that touches every person and every aspect of our lives, whether we know it or not. places --in different hearts are in different places, and not everyone can see it or they do not want to see it. when i used to teach young doctors, i would tell them the eyes cannot see what the mind does not know. think about it. the eyes cannot see what the mind does not know. that is true for a lot of us.
it is time to acknowledge the reality of institutional racism, even if you cannot see it. public policies have kept this reality in place for a long time. that is why we have been working so hard to reform criminal justice laws, expand health care access, make it easier to vote, and so much more. too.ls matter virginia has never been willing to deal with symbols until now. , virginia is home to more confederate commemorations than any other state. that is true because generations ago, virginia made the decision not to celebrate unity but to honor the cause of division. you will see this if you look around virginia and our capital city.
the statue of robert e lee is the most prominent. lee himself did not want a monument, but virginia built one anyway. , " i think it is wiser not to keep open the source of war but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered." those are wide wise word indeed. what happened? virginia leaders said we know better. instead of choosing to heal the wounds of the american civil war, they chose to keep them on display right here in richmond. they launched a new campaign to undo the results of the civil war by other means. to ensured a simple
the cause. it is quite the symbol. the lee statute was built in france. tookit arrived by boat, it 10,000 citizens, 10,000 and a three largeto haul crates out into the tobacco field where it would be installed. some business people put it out in the field so they could eventually build a housing development around it and make money, and it worked. may, 1890, 20in years after lee died at a generation after the civil war ended. 150,000 people came out when the statue was unveiled. , there was noning secret about what the statue meant. 150,000veryone of those
people waved confederate flags that day. john mitchell was
at the editor of the black newspaper, the rich of a planner at the time. he wrote, " the emblem of the union had been left behind, a glorification of the lost cause was everywhere. it was a big day, and more big days followed throughout the old south, and as the statues went laws. did lots of new it was part of the same campaign. here is one example. new laws limiting the right to vote. oryears after the civil war, than one 100,000 african-american men were registered to vote in virginia. once this campaign took off, that number plummeted by 90% to
barely 10,000. that worked to. the people who wrote
these laws new --knew what they were doing. they wrote other new laws to say it once a statue goes up it can never come down. they wanted the statues to remain forever. they needed the statues to stay forever, because they helped keep the system in place. that also work. those laws ruled for more than a century, but voting matters. elections matter. laws can be changed. this year, with the help of the general assembly, we changed them. this year, i proposed legislation to let cities and counties decide what to do with monuments in their communities. take them down. [applause]
take them down. move them somewhere else. .dd additional context that law takes effect in four weeks. then a local communities will decide. i note richmond is going to do --knowht thing -- no richmond is going to do the right thing. the lee statue is unique both in size and in legal status. you see, the state owns it. unlike most other statues, that was another part of the plan. to keep it up forever. it sits on a 100 foot circle of land, a state owned island surrounded by the city of richmond. the whole thing is six stories tall. it towers over homes, businesses
, and everyone who lives in virginia from elegant monument avenue to the public housing neighborhood of gilpin court. the statute itself weighs 12 tons and it sits atop a large pedestal. a pedestal is a place of honor. we put things on pedestals when we want people to look up. think about the message this sense to people coming from around the world to visit the capital city of one of the largest states in our country or two young children. what do you say when a six-year-old african-american little girl looks you in the eye what does this big statue mean? why is it here?" when a young child looks up and sees something that big and
prominent, she knows that it must be important. when it is the biggest thing around, it sends a clear message. this is what we value the most. that is just not true anymore. longer preache no a false version of history, one that pretends the civil war was about state rights and not the evils of slavery. longer.elieves that any in 2020, we can no longer honor ing andm based on the buy selling of enslaved people. not in 2020. i want us all to tell that little girl the truth. yes, that statue has been there for a long time. , and it iswrong then wrong now. so we are taking it down.
protest.ow some will some will say, lee was an honorable man. i note many people will be angry benow many people will angry. i believe in a virginia that studies its past in an honest way. i believe what we learn more, we can do more. when we learn more, when we take that honest look at our past, we must do more than just talk about the future. we must take action. i am directing the department of general services to remove the statue of robert e lee as soon as possible. [applause]
it will go into storage and we will work with the community to determine its future. before we turn to the next speakers, i want to acknowledge all the elected officials, scholars, members of our advisory board and other guests who are here today. in particular, i want to acknowledge members of the family of barbara johns. mr. robert johnson at his all know their families story. 1951, a 16-year-old girl, barbara johns stood up and led a protest as students strike conditionsstandard in prince county. and twoed and pushed
great american attorneys took up her cause, oliver hill and scott wood robinson filed suit just next door at the federal courthouse at the bottom of the hill. that case became brown versus the board of education and eventually throughout --threw out segregated schools. it started in richmond. that is how you make change. to push on the outside. you push on the inside too. we will hear and just a moment from a few of the people making change happen. my friends, i believe in a virginia that studies its past in an honest way. i believe in a virginia that learns lessons from the past. we all know that our country needs that example right now. america is once again looking to
virginia to lead. make no mistake. important,simple is but it is only a step. it does not mean problems are solved. there are still monuments of inequities that exist in our commonwealth and in this country. we still need change in this country. we need healing most of all. symbols do matter. we all know it is time, and history will prove that. thank you all so much for being a part of this important history today. theuld like to introduce reverend robert w lee the fourth. we have been talking about his great great grandfather. reverently, welcome. [applause]
lee, socle, robert e any greats removed, as storied history in the commonwealth of virginia, but today, the world is watching. because of the death of george floyd, because of the death of so many other people at the hands of oppression and racism and violence at white supremacy and police brutality, we are here because we want to show that we can and must be different. a new day is coming not only for the commonwealth but for the united states and for the world in which, as the great martin luther king promised, justice would roll down like a river at righteousness like an ever flowing stream. this is the hope that we live in. i note that my name bears some weight, at least in the commonwealth.
to those of you who might be doubting, hedging your bets that this is not the time to do this, when will be the right time? when will it be right to address the white supremacy and racism that we have made an idol of my uncle out of. we have created an idol of white supremacy, hatred, racism and rightfully so out of the confederacy, and we must do our best now to address that. as you can see, i am a pastor also. -- and whenaptized you were baptized, your baptized by her given name. i was a christian first, and a lee second. as a christian, i am compelled to believe this is a moment for us not to shy away from painful truths but to address them for what they are. lee was a complicated figure, and we all know that. in his complexities, we see he
was a man of his time who fought to continue the enslavement of black people. in so doing, set our nation on a course toward destruction. but we have a chance here today in the commonwealth of virginia. we have a chance to say this will not be our final moment and our final stand. there is more important things statue.ss than just a we know that we see it across the nation. but this statue is a symbol of oppression. if it is a simple it becomes an idol. if it becomes an idol, as a christian, i am convinced that the idols must be torn down. [applause] northam, lieutenant governor fairfax, and all of the elected officials, i note this thisst a moment -- i know
is just a moment. we go back to work renewed that this is the start of a new moment. a new cause, a lost cause is dead. a new cause is upon us. ,ne of equality, justice, peace and concorde. it is this scope -- hope that we come together and say we must address these issues and it starts with the statues and goes on from there. today, for the work of justice continues, and the work of what we do to bring about change continues. pentecost,eek was and we talked about the story of the holy spirit descending upon the first apostles. one of the things i thought was of the turning.
the world is about to turn. the world may be burning, and the world is about to turn, because we are going to let justice roll down, and this is the start of something incredible. we are with you. we support the commonwealth, and on behalf of my line that descended back to the lees of virginia, we support you and we wholeheartedly command -- command --commend this act. [applause] >> i would like to think having leertham for follow a pastor in a presentation. .'m here with my grandson we are here representing the family of barbara johns.
brothers and iy are so pleased to learn of the removal of the statue of robert e lee.robert it is a symbol of hate, bigotry, and division. we are now walking into a new era of acceptance, respect, and inclusion. it is young people, a new generation that are leading us, and i am so proud of my daughter and her children, including to see this.get and all of my nieces and nephews as well. --nk you, better northam governor northam, and the
administration for the work that you're doing, for keeping your word. that we have so much more work to do, this is a great start. underwood,dr. janice for you and your staff for the work that you were doing. [applause] we are so proud, the jones family is proud, and the commonwealth of virginia is proud. i would like to add one more thing. for all those who are protesting, i would encourage you in the commonwealth of virginia and throughout this country, please register to vote. [applause] this is what it is going to take. thank you very much.
>> good morning, everyone. it is an honor to be here with you all today at this defining moment in history. i would like to thank the governor for his courageous leadership at a time when our country needs to be brought together and brought forward out of a dark past. i think it speaks volumes that she would stand up right now with one voice and with clarity to state that we need to be different as a commonwealth and what wentry then --than have been. in 2020, this is the first year of the next 400 years in virginia and america. we get to determine who we are going to be as a people, as a commonwealth, as a country. whether we will be shackled by art history. whether we will continue to exclude people, to treat them unequally. to take people outside of the scope of the promise of this nation at founding documents.
, i believe wenia are making a down payment on a new promise to the people of virginia. as the governor mentioned, we have many more confederate monuments than just the statues in at around the commonwealth. those monuments include substandard schools the kids are going to that are dilapidated, that are enshrined to an ideology of inferiority of black and brown children. those monuments include a broken health care system where african-americans and minorities have worse health outcomes. those confederate monuments include substandard housing and eviction rates that are incredibly high, destabilizing families and communities. they include a broken criminal justice system where african-americans are overrepresented 3, 3 .5 times in our prison system. as we make the down payment, it
is with the recognition that governor northam eloquently stated that there is so much more work to be done. i am grateful to the tremendous leaders who have come out here today who have stood up with moral courage, who have been voices for so many years for change. today, that change is upon us because of the work that so many have done. his propheticand voice, i want to thank him for his leadership. , want to thank my friend reverend robert w lee the fourth: joy to meet last year in protesting the honoring of robert e lee. i am proud with the governor's leadership at our general assembly working together, we have eliminated lee jackson day for the first time in 131 years. [applause] virginia honor
lee or jackson. this is a combination of the work of so many people over so long a. -- so long a period of time. since the merged meeting of the virginia,sembly, jamestown, 1619. we also commemorate 400 years since the first enslaved africans were forced to land in virginia, and those have been the dual strands of darkness and light that affront to the commonwealth of virginia and our nation for four centuries. you can draw a direct line from that 400 year mark through slavery and segregation and the black codes and discrimination and massive resistance to the death of george floyd in minneapolis at death of breonna taylor sleeping in her home at
the death of ahmaud arbery who was killed in the streets. you can draw a direct line from that point to everything we are experiencing today. the good news is that we can be different in this first year of the next 400 years. we can take this country and our commonwealth on a different course. i think that is what today is all about. this is something that impacts everyone of us, regardless of your color, creed, faith, nationality or origin. we are witnessing a moment in history that we all get to change and rise up and not tear communities down. , this is also very personal for me and my family. years towill mark 222 the day that my great great great grandfather was freed from 1798, freedune 5, by the ninth lord fairfax. this is something that impacts
every single one of us. i am proud that my nine-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son will not have to grow up in a virginia at a world that does not value them, that their lives will be put on a pedestal, that their lives matter, and the lives of every brick -- every matter.d brown lives thank you for standing up. thank you, governor, for your leadership, and america as its best days are ahead of us for what you were doing right now. [applause] >> thank you, governor, for your leadership. these past few days have been hard and they have been painful. they have forced white americans to confront the safety and
privilege that our skin color affords us, a feeling that black americans have not had the luxury of knowing. fear that our society places on the shoulder of black americans is immoral and unsustainable. the conversations i've had over the past week. i've heard so many times words like tired and exhausted. no one should have to live in the fear that they, their children, their loved ones could be killed if they do something as simple as go for a walk or run an errand. i cannot personally know the weight of that fear. i recognize it, and i am listening. we must dismantle systemic racism that permeates our communities and build a country that is fair and just and safe for all people, and that includes removing the painful thatders of a racist past
stained our commonwealth. monumentsdiose memorializing a racist insurrection do not belong in our public spaces. they do not deserve to stand as a representation of our commonwealth and our people. the way we tell our history as a people profoundly influences the way that each of us view our role within our society. when people are constantly surrounded by symbols of white supremacy and hate, it introduces ed reinforces the false and poisonous notion that there is a hierarchy of races. how do you possibly explain these -- to a child? what do you tell them about why it is there? you cannot. it is indefensible. how do you tell a black man or black woman that they are going to get a fair and impartial trial when the entrance to the
courthouse is literally blocked by a monument to a movement that sought to keep them enslaved? virginia as hundreds of public confederate symbols, including statues, monuments, school names , and until recently a state holiday. these portrayals of the confederacy and its leaders as grand, correct figures distort our understanding of history and glorified depression and injustice that these men fought a war over. they were raised as part of a deliberate and intentional effort to intimidate and degrade black virginians and suppress the growing civil rights movement. and now they must come down as part of a deliberate and intentional effort to heal and move forward together. this is an important step. symbols do matter. taking this monument down will not stop police abuse, close
education or health disparities or erase the systemic racism that permeates every aspect of our country. , toe is much more to do heal the pain that so many virginians have been feeling for far too long. we have a long road ahead of us. we cannot allow our fellow virginians to bear this burden that we have forced them to carry any longer. we need to do the work to make virginia the open, welcoming, --r, and just face it that and just place that i know it can be. [applause] >> my name is iona bryant. i am a student from charlottesville and i wrote the original petition to remove the
robert e lee statue. [applause] i want to first start by honoring the ancestors and my own personal family, because they are the shoulders i stand on. i want to be clear that there will be no healing or reconciliation until we have equity, until we have fully dismantled the system that oppressed black and brown people. the only way we can move forward if we can -- the voices of the people who are the most marginalized. until we were able to fully come to the table with activists and organizers who have been working day in and day out to organize our communities, we will not be able to move forward for progress. i want to make space to intentionally think the activists in charlottesville who have put in decades worth of
work to get us where we are today. without them, we would not be here. without a little bit of inconvenience, a little bit of making people uncomfortable, we would not be here. today, i want to say it is no longer adequate to walk away from having this tough conversation. away no longer ok to walk from racist dialogue because you do not want to cause controversy . lives are on the line. line.ture is on the activelyare all working to dismantle those systems, we are complicit. until we work to amplify the voices of black women, black lgbtq folks, undocumented
>> racial justice, a conference of plan is powerfully symbolic. what are those plans? we will look at police brutality. -- invested. where are we going here toward those concrete steps toward racial justice? governor northam: what are we doing in virginia to prevent police brutality and what the world witnessed? the first step is to realize we have a problem and then to have people come together and have a dialogue. when i say people come together, people like myself, police
, and talkgislators about how we turn what we have experienced, and we turn words into action. i think there is some very concrete steps that we can edit plan to take in virginia. one of those, and we have been working on for the past year or so, is diversifying our police forces, our staff. that needs to happen. having more interaction with the communities, letting people out in committees know that police officers are there to help them, not hurt them. techniques such as de-escalating. how do we train better for those situations. body cameras, we have addressed that in virginia. there are a number of things that we have been and will continue to work on into virginia to address the police brutality. i think from a cooperative point of view and indiscretions discussions i have had,
everybody wants to be part of this. cannot allowty what we have witnessed not just in minneapolis but all the other instances. now is the time to bring people together to take words and turn them into action. that is what we will continue to do in virginia. >> [inaudible] northam: the question is why no? it is pretty apparent as we look across the country. there is pain. as a physician, i could recognize the pain along with a lot of other people and now is the time to heal. we have made this decision. we are proud of this decision and we are taking a new direction in virginia. >> [inaudible]
governor northam: the first question was the extent. -- expense. while there will be an expense to removing these confederate monuments, there is a much greater expense when we do not welcome people to virginia, when we are not inclusive. this is symbolic to let people around the world and in this is ary no that virginia place of inclusiveness, a place of welcoming people. our doors are open, our lights are on. that is the most important message and there is no price to that. we are certainly more than willing to use the resources that it will take to take these
monuments down and to have the discussion of what should happen to them as we move forward. your second question was what about white oppression, white privilege? andre,ou, and i think, the answer to that is about education. ofis about telling the truth 400 years of history in this country. while there have been some good things, there are also many things that are not good. as i have gone around and listened and learned, and as i said, the more we learn, the more we do -- the more we can do. i encourage all virginians to learn about history and to learn how hurtful and listen to people tell their stories of how hurtful these things are. , then wew that history
can move forward. theovernor, and a lot of other leaders here we will do as we move forward. >> [inaudible] governor northam: the question is the stepwise fashion. the first step is to talk with our contractors and make plans in the coming weeks to remove the actual bronze part of the statue. that will be placed in a warehouse. we will have discussion as far as what to do with the pedestal. will we put another monument on top of the pedestal? that discussion will continue as we move forward. the second part of your question? >> [inaudible] northam we are in the
midst of those discussions. >> [inaudible] northam: as a physician, i could recognize pain. pain.is tremendous it has been going on for a long time, but it has been brought into particular focus in minneapolis, and we have seen the protest here in virginia, not only at richmond but in other cities and towns across virginia. the pain is real. i recognize that. i made the decision as far as timewise, this is something we have been working on the legalities of for over a year with might lead counsel. i made the decision tuesday afternoon because of what i see. it is time for virginia, this country to heal.
when there are symbols of divisiveness such as these statues are, in order to heal that divisiveness, the statues need to come down. >> do you believe that they should be following what is going to happen here in richmond? governor northam: i would encourage folks across this great country of ours that we have 400 years of history behind us, and as our lieutenant governor eloquently said, it is time to chart a new course of history, not only for virginia, for this country. if one really wants to understand that history, we need to go back and really look at the evolution of black oppression that started with slavery in this country. a lot of people say, slavery is behind us, so black oppression
is behind us. ,ut then we had jim crow era then massive resistance and mass incarceration and now we have brutality pictures of like we saw in minneapolis, so black oppression is still with us. the more that we can all understand that history, the better we can move forward. i want to thank you all for being a part of this historical day. we have lived in virginia, this country with 400 years of history. today is an opportunity for us to chart a new course, and it starts with removing the symbols. it starts with further addressing the monuments of inequity that we have talked about, and it starts with all of us together in a peaceful, civil way making sure this country,
this commonwealth of virginia is a place where we welcome people, where our lights are on, our doors are open. where we are inclusive to all people. thank you for being a part of this today and we look forward to seeing you. [applause] >> with the recent protests unfolding across the country, watch our live unfiltered coverage of the government's response with briefings from the white house, congress, governors, and mayors across the nation addressing the situation. updates regarding the coronavirus pandemic and campaign 2020. join in the conversation every andon "washington journal" if you missed any of our live coverage watch any on demand at
c-span.org or listen on the go with the free c-span radio app. tv onrican history c-span3, exploring the people and events that tell the american story. coming up this weekend, saturday eastern, the film education 57 looking at conditions surrounding schools at the time, including teacher pay and dropout rates. and sunday on american artifacts, part two of the african-american heritage trail tore through mobile, alabama. and then, a discussion on .,ancipation in washington d.c especially women in the area following the district of columbia emancipation act. exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3.
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> as we look at a loss of confidence in our systems, a wave of cynicism that is -- it becomes very difficult for us to rise to a challenge like this. our first reaction is to say, they are lying to us. they are only in it for themselves. a lot of our national institutions have got to take on the challenge of persuading people again that they exist for us, that they are here for the country. on in-depth.noon dash.of conversation with his most recent book is " a time to build." join the conversation with your phone calls, tweets and facebook messages. c-span2.depth on
the senateon c-span, judiciary committee continues with its review of the fbi's russia investigation followed by william barr and fbi director christopher wray, holding a news conference on the government's response to protests responding to the death of george floyd. center democrats hold a moment of silence for mr. floyd on capitol hill after that. pelosiannounce -- nancy addresses it and possible legislation on racial inequality and police reforms. hill, the senate judiciary committee continued its review of the fbi's russia probe, considering subpoena authorization for documents and witnesses related to the investigation. a final vote on authorization was postponed until next week. members spent nearly two hours debating the issue. at one point, the committee votes on the nomination of justin walker to serve on the d.c. circuit court of appeals,