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Pentagon gets its way: Reconciliation Memorial will be removed after judge lifts injunction
Arlington National Cemetery

Pentagon gets its way: Reconciliation Memorial will be removed after judge lifts injunction

Iconoclasts in the previous Democrat-controlled 116th Congress and the Biden Department of Defense are getting exactly what they wanted: the toppling of the Jewish American-designed Reconciliation Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery.

While Judge Rossie David Alston Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia temporarily halted the plan to dismantle the 109-year-old monument, he reversed course Tuesday, giving the go-ahead for the Christmastime toppling.

What's the background?

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

There is an apparent need to expedite the process, given the deadline set for the Pentagon by the Democrat-controlled 116th Congress in its National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2021. Per section 370 of the NDAA, virtually all military assets even remotely linked to the Confederacy are to be removed by Jan. 1, 2024.

After the D.C. federal court dismissed the heritage group's lawsuit, Defend Arlington tried once more in Virginia.

Contrary to claims made by the cemetery, their lawsuit alleged, "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."

Judge Alston granted the plaintiffs a temporary restraining order, expressing concern over the possibility that neighboring grave sites might be disturbed. He hedged by stating, "Should the representations in this case be untrue or exaggerated the Court may take appropriate sanctions."

The cemetery indicated Monday that the Army had begun "disassembly of the monument atop the Confederate Memorial prior to the court issuing the temporary restraining order," but would comply with the order and halt further work.

A vacant plinth for Christmas

Prior to Tuesday's hearing, Alston toured the cemetery and inspected the site, reported the Associated Press.

"I saw no desecration of any graves," said Alston. "The grass wasn't even disturbed."

The Trump-nominated judge subsequently issued an 18-page ruling Tuesday evening lifting the restraining order. Alston indicated the plaintiff's allegations about the removal efforts, specifically the suggestion that graves were being disturbed, "were, at best, ill-informed and, at worse, inaccurate."

During the hearing, Alston also questioned Defend Arlington lawyers' claims about the nature of the monument, stating "a slave running after his 'massa' as he walks down the road. What is reconciling about that?" reported Politico.

John Rowley, a lawyer for Defend Arlington, said in a statement obtained by the New York Times, "While we respect the Court’s decision, we continue to believe the evidence shows that in its haste to remove the Reconciliation Memorial, the DoD failed to conduct the reviews mandated by law regarding historic preservation and environmental impacts."

Kerry L. Meeker, a spokeswoman for the cemetery, told the Times in a statement that the iconoclasm would resume immediately and would be completed by Friday.

"While the work is performed, surrounding graves, headstones and the landscape will be carefully protected by a dedicated team, preserving the sanctity of all those laid to rest," said Meeker.

The monument, designed by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a Confederate veteran and the first Jewish graduate of Virginia Military Institute, will be thrown into storage "until the final disposition has been determined."

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) previously indicated he intends to move the memorial to the New Market Battlefield State Historic Park in the Shenandoah Valley.

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 Ezekiel; and unveiled in Section 16 of the cemetery by President Woodrow Wilson on June 4, 1914.

Both those supportive of and those opposed to the monument's original construction understood it to be signal reconciliation in the aftermath of the Civil War.

The monument, at least as it stood Tuesday, consists of a bronze female figure crowned with olive leaves atop a 32-foot pedestal. The female figure holds a laurel wreath, a pruning hook, and a plow. At her feet is a biblical inscription that reads, "They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks."

Defend Arlington noted in a Meta post, "We are disappointed that American's [sic] had another breach in upholding the rule of law today. Hon. Rossie David Alston, Jr. visited Arlington National Cemetery ex-parte. We expect the crane is moving over the top of Ezekiel's grave this moment."

Controlling the past

If the past three years provide any indication, the removal of the Reconciliation Monument will not placate the left's desire to erase and revise history.

Since the ruinous 2020 BLM riots kicked off, statues of former U.S. presidents including George Washington, Ulysses Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt have been torn down by leftists, both the kind empowered by politicians and the kind empowered by voters.

Statues of Christopher Columbus were officially removed, toppled, or vandalized nationwide, as were hundreds of other statues commemorating consequential historic figures. Apolitical statues such as the World War I memorial in Birmingham, Alabama, and the statue of Polish hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko were afforded no exemption.

There appear to be incentives for iconoclasts to stay the course. For instance, vandals who destroyed the Sacramento statue of a historic Catholic missionary were rewarded last month with a substitute palatable to those antipathetic to the region's Christian heritage.

Efforts to sever the present from the past have gone far beyond statues.

Blaze News recently reported that the American Ornithological Society announced on Nov. 1 that it will begin changing the names of 70-80 birds currently named after people next year.

"There is power in a name, and some English bird names have associations with the past that continue to be exclusionary and harmful today," said AOS president Colleen Handel, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska.

Biden Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland similarly has been scrubbing place names across the country that include the Algonquin word for woman, as it had been deemed derogatory by activist groups.

Ezekial's erasure wasn't the first and will not be the last under the current administration.

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Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.
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