RICHMOND, Va. — In a bizarre twist on the Monument Avenue controversy, Richmond mayor Levar Stoney recently proposed an option that would leave the statues untouched and instead relocate Monument Avenue.
While Monument Avenue has been a symbol of Richmond for several decades, the memories conjured up by statues honoring Confederate soldiers reflect a darker era in the city’s history. Many feel that the monuments represent an age rooted in slavery, racism, and hatred and wish to have them removed.
Though other cities in the United States are in the process of eliminating their statues commemorating the Confederacy, the City of Richmond believes that there could be a more positive alternative.
“After lengthy discussion with advisors, we feel as though this is a compromise we can all live with,” Stoney said. “It was either remove the statues from Monument Avenue or remove Monument Avenue from the statues. Our research shows that it’s much easier to move a street than it is the statues.”
Stoney’s act of leaving the statues where they are is an obvious olive branch to those individuals and special interest groups who have yet to get over a war that ended 150 years ago. “We’ve always said that you can’t change history,” said Cousins of the Confederates president Ronald Witherspoon. “But by the mayor keeping the monuments, he’s not changing it. He’s ignoring it. And to be quite honest, I’m not sure if you can or can’t ignore history. I’m going to have to look that up.”
If the decision is made to move Monument Avenue, the next step for the mayor’s office will be finding a site for relocation. With approximately 4.7 miles of street on hand, the challenge for Stoney will be making sure the new spot is suitable for everyone.
“Obviously our first choice was Short Pump,” Stoney said. “But then I realized, as the mayor of Richmond that wouldn’t be a wise fiscal maneuver. Things like Easter on Parade and the Monument Avenue 10k are serious cash cows. So now we’re looking at either somewhere downtown or in Scott’s Addition. At this point it’s still up in the air.”
Whatever course of action Mayor Stoney decides to take, he wants Richmonders to know one thing: if Monument Avenue is moved, the Arthur Ashe statue will move with it. “For one, he’s not really the problem here,” Stoney stated. “Second, it would be difficult to have a street called ‘Monument Avenue’ and not have any monuments on it.”
If the mayor’s proposal is approved, the City of Richmond would be left with the task of renaming the remaining stretch of road. The names that have been considered range from the innocuous (Statue Street, The Avenue Formerly Known As Monument) to the inflammatory (Racism Road, Indentured Servitude Terrace). The mayor believes that the people of Richmond will be okay no matter what the name becomes.
“One thing about Richmonders, we’re used to change,” Stoney said. “We went from the Braves to the Flying Squirrels, so we’ll be alright.”