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Hampton Roads Community News

Plaintiffs File New Suit To Remove Norfolk’s Monument

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

Roy Perry-Bey and Ronald Green, the two activists fighting in the Norfolk Circuit Court to remove the city’s Confederate Monument, have filed a new suit to bolster their argument.

Last March, a suit, Perry-Bey/Green vs. The City of Norfolk, called for an injunction to end the city’s delay in carrying out its August 2017 resolution to remove it to Elmwood cemetery.

But the city had delayed its move. In 1907 it was written into the state code that no war memorial erected in a county could be removed. Thus the city is waiting on a state court ruling to clear a path to remove it.

The Norfolk Commonwealth Attorney and the Virginia Attorney General have issued statements claiming the city could do so.

The judge continued that case until this week on Monday, April 29.

On April 29, during a brief hearing before Circuit Court Judge Mary Jane Hall heard statements from Perry-Bey and Green as they bickered with Assistant City Attorney, Adam Melita over highly technical legal points before supporters, opponents of their efforts and the media.

The original suit was tossed by Judge Hall, opening the way for a new suit.

In their new suit, the plaintiffs have laid out their reasons for removing the statue, including the Injunction, the fact that it is not a War Memorial, that the 1907 ruling does exclude Norfolk since it was a city at a time when the monument was originally built in 1889.

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The Plaintiffs said that since 1907 does not impose any restriction on Norfolk to remove the structure the city council is not legally liable.

Further, the plaintiffs continue to say that the message projected by the monument of White Supremacy causes them to “suffer irreparable harm” under the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

The filing also noted that even the city council cited the monuments as a ”public nuisance” and “symbol of inhumanity.”

One change included in the new suit, is that the city would move the 80-foot monument from the center of the city’s business district to the Magnolia Cemetery.

The city and the Perry-Bey/Green duo had designated Elmwood Cemetery as the new site for the Monument.

But Perry-Bey said Elmwood Cemetery, sectioned off by a brick wall, is a segregated Black burial plot. It also includes the graves of local Black soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Also, a monument is standing there honoring those dead soldiers.

Thus, he said, it would be unsuitable for the ‘Johnny Reb” monument.

Magnolia Cemetery is located in the Berkley section of Norfolk. It was established in 1860 on land donated by Lycurgus Berkley. Magnolia was operated by a private cemetery corporation until the City of Norfolk purchased it in 1911. Berkley is one of the oldest communities in Virginia.

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