A Confederate memorial in Virginia is set to be removed despite objections from Republicans

Photograph: AP

   A Confederate memorial is set to be taken down from Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia in the coming days as part of the ongoing efforts to eliminate symbols commemorating the Confederacy from military-related facilities, according to a cemetery official.

This decision comes despite a recent demand from over 40 Republican congressmen urging the Pentagon to halt efforts to dismantle and remove the monument from Arlington Cemetery. Safety fencing has been installed around the memorial, and officials anticipate completing the removal by the upcoming Friday, December 22, according to an email from Arlington National Cemetery.

During the removal process, measures will be taken to protect the surrounding landscape, graves, and headstones.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin disagrees with the decision to remove the Confederate memorial and plans to relocate it to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park in the Shenandoah Valley, according to Macaulay Porter, a gubernatorial spokesperson.

In 2022, an independent commission recommended the removal of the memorial as part of its final report to Congress on renaming military bases and assets that commemorate the Confederacy.

The statue, unveiled in 1914, features a bronze woman standing on a 32ft pedestal, crowned with olive leaves, and is designed to represent the American South. According to Arlington National Cemetery, the woman holds a laurel wreath, a plow stock, and a pruning hook, with a Biblical inscription at her feet that reads: "They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks."

The Confederate memorial also includes figures such as a Black woman depicted as "Mammy" holding what is claimed to be the child of a white officer, as well as an enslaved man following his owner to war.

In a recent letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, more than 40 House Republicans argued that the commission exceeded its authority by recommending the removal of the monument. The congressmen asserted that the monument "does not honor nor commemorate the Confederacy; the memorial commemorates reconciliation and national unity."

"The Department of Defense must respect Congress' clear legislative intentions regarding the naming commission's legislative authority," the letter stated.

Congressman Andrew Clyde, a Georgia Republican, has been leading the effort to block the removal of the memorial. As of Saturday, Clyde's office had not responded to an email seeking comment.

The Arlington National Cemetery has completed the process to prepare for the removal and relocation of the memorial. The bronze elements of the memorial will be relocated, while the granite base and foundation will remain in place to avoid disturbing surrounding graves, according to the cemetery.

Earlier this year, as part of a broader Department of Defense initiative motivated by the 2020 George Floyd protests, Fort Bragg changed its name to Fort Liberty, shedding its Confederate namesake. The initiative aimed to rename military installations that had been named after Confederate soldiers.

Originally named in 1918 after Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general known for owning slaves and experiencing defeats in key Civil War battles, Fort Bragg in North Carolina changed its name to Fort Liberty earlier this year. The renaming was part of a broader Department of Defense initiative, spurred by the 2020 George Floyd protests and ongoing efforts to remove Confederate monuments.

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations that swept the nation following Floyd's killing by a white police officer brought attention to army installations with Confederate ties. A naming commission created by Congress visited these bases and sought input from members of the surrounding communities as part of the initiative to rename military installations named after Confederate figures.