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March 6, 2019

Today, at a public hearing hosted by the Department of General Services regarding proposed regulations for protests and demonstrations at the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, the ACLU of Virginia sent the DGS this letter raising constitutional concerns about the proposed regulations and made the following statement calling on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to issue an executive order to remove the Lee Monument immediately:

"The ACLU of Virginia believes that government has an obligation to protect free speech and public safety, and we appreciate the effort being made to balance these responsibilities. At the same time, we were disappointed that the Department of General Services did not address any of the constitutional concerns we raised in the comments we filed in January 2018 on the Emergency Regulations. We have reiterated our concerns in comments filed yesterday on the Proposed Regulations and hope that they will be reflected in any final rules.

"There is, however, one action we believe Governor Northam could take immediately that would resolve these concerns by eliminating the need for these regulations in the first place. The Governor could use his executive power to have the Lee Monument removed from the state property where it is now located. If the Lee Monument were not located where it is now, there would be no need for these onerous (and, potentially, unconstitutional) regulations regarding the use of the grounds surrounding it

"The Robert E. Lee Monument is accurately described in language prefacing the proposed regulations as “a state-property island in an area otherwise regulated by the City of Richmond.” The Governor has authority over state property at the seat of government, and broad authority to dispose of state property deemed surplus, i.e., not needed, by public auction, donation, or, possibly, transfer to the federal government.

"We urge the Governor to show his commitment to racial equity by taking action immediately to remove this towering racist symbol from Richmond’s Monument Avenue. Among other possibilities, he might want to consider donating it to the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park which memorializes Lee’s surrender of his 28,000 Confederate troops and the end of the American Civil War and would provide appropriate historical context for the statute’s display."