© 2024 Blaze Media LLC. All rights reserved.
Judge halts toppling of Reconciliation Monument in Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery

Judge halts toppling of Reconciliation Monument in Arlington National Cemetery

A Trump-nominated federal judge has halted the removal of the Reconciliation Monument in Arlington National Cemetery, which the cemetery indicated Saturday would otherwise take place by week's end. While the iconoclasts have been momentarily restrained, the fate of the historic monument, also called the Confederate Memorial, remains uncertain.

The group Defend Arlington, affiliated with Save Southern Heritage Florida, filed a federal lawsuit last month in the District of Columbia accusing the Army, which oversees the cemetery, of violating regulations in an apparent effort to rush the process and get the monument down by January.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2021 requires that the Pentagon remove "all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate Sates of America (commonly referred to as the 'Confederacy') or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America from all assets of the Department of Defense."'

The deadline for such removals is Jan. 1, 2024.

The D.C. federal court dismissed the lawsuit last week; however, Defend Arlington attempted once more to preserve the monument, this time in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, reported the Associated Press.

Their lawsuit reportedly stated, "The removal will desecrate, damage, and likely destroy the Memorial longstanding at ANC as a grave marker and impede the Memorial's eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places."

With ostensibly no movement on the legal front, the cemetery announced over the weekend that the removal of the Reconciliation Monument, also called the Confederate Memorial, was in compliance with both the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act and would be completed by no later than Dec. 22.

Additionally, the cemetery claimed that "[d]uring the deconstruction, the area around the Memorial will be protected to ensure no impact to the surrounding landscape and grave markers and to ensure the safety of visitors in and around the vicinity of the deconstruction."

U.S. District Judge Rossie Alston, Jr., threw a wrench in the removal plans, granting Defend Arlington a temporary restraining order on Monday, barring the Pentagon from tearing down the 109-year-old monument.

Alston was reportedly concerned by the possibility that grave sites might be disturbed — a prospect raised by the lawyer for the plaintiffs. Alston also made clear that just as he takes the possibility of such disturbances seriously, he "takes very seriously the representations of officers of the Court."

"Should the representations in this case be untrue or exaggerated the Court may take appropriate sanctions," added Alston.

David McCallister, a spokesman for Save Southern Heritage Florida, indicated the Virginia case is stronger than the case dismissed in D.C. because there is now evidence that the removal underway disturbs grave sites.

Although it won't bring closure, this turn of events may nevertheless bring some hope to those in both parties who have denounced the effort to remove the monument.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) and 40 Republicans called on Defense Secretary Austin in a letter last week to suspend all removal activities related to the Reconciliation Monument until Congress finalized the appropriations process for fiscal year 2024.

Clyde stressed that the memorial is exempt from the removal requirement because it "does not honor nor commemorate the Confederacy and that it commemorates reconciliation and nation unity." Additionally, "the Naming Commission's authority explicitly prohibits the desecration of grave sites."

Former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) indicated in an August Wall Street journal op-ed that the statue's toppling would signify the desire of a "deteriorating society ... to erase the generosity of its past, in favor of bitterness and misunderstanding conjured by those who do not understand the history they seem bent on destroying."

The Reconciliation Monument was approved in 1906 by Secretary of War William Taft; commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1910; designed by Jewish former Confederate soldier Moses Jacob Ezekiel; and unveiled in Section 16 of the cemetery by President Woodrow Wilson on June 4, 1914.

A hearing concerning the removal has been scheduled in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for Wednesday.

Like Blaze News? Bypass the censors, sign up for our newsletters, and get stories like this direct to your inbox. Sign up here!

Want to leave a tip?

We answer to you. Help keep our content free of advertisers and big tech censorship by leaving a tip today.
Want to join the conversation?
Already a subscriber?
Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News. He lives in a small town with his wife and son, moonlighting as an author of science fiction.
@HeadlinesInGIFs →