Sen. Cory Booker plans to introduce a bill to remove statues from the US Capitol honoring Confederate soldiers despite President Donald Trump calling these memorials “beautiful.”
“I will be introducing a bill to remove Confederate statues from the US Capitol building. This is just one step. We have much work to do,” the New Jersey Democrat tweeted Wednesday.
There are at least 10 Confederate statues in the Capitol, distributed between the Hall of Columns, the Capitol Visitor Center and other locations, most notably Statuary Hall, where each state chooses two statues to be on display.
Booker said in a statement to CNN that having to see Confederate statues in a position of honor in a place as public as the Capitol can be “painful.”
“The Capitol is a place for all Americans to come and feel welcomed, encouraged, and inspired,” he said. “Confederate statues do the opposite.”
“They are, unequivocally, not only statues of treasonous Americans, but are symbolic to some who seek to revise history and advance hate and division,” the lawmaker added. “To millions of Americans, they are painful, injurious symbols of bigotry and hate, celebrating individuals who sought to break our nation asunder and preserve the vile institution of slavery and white supremacy.”
When asked about the inclusion of Confederate statues in the Capitol, Doug Andres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said “These are decisions for those states to make.” CNN has also reached out to the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and has not yet received a response.
Booker’s communications director said that the senator will introduce the bill after Labor Day, as the Senate is currently on recess.
Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, told a local radio station that what statues are included in the Capitol should face more discussion but did not endorse a plan that removes Confederate statues.
“I know Cory Booker, one of the Senators I work with, is trying to say, at the federal level, we ought to have the same process, where we look at monuments that have federal jurisdiction, and I’m talking to him about how we might move forward on that. So this is a conversation that is going to, I think, go on now for some time, but I think that everybody needs to have a chance to be heard,” Warner told WRVA radio on Thursday.
Booker is getting support from Democrats in the House, including from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said in a statement, “The Confederate statues in the halls of Congress have always been reprehensible.”
“If Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy, I call upon Speaker Ryan to join Democrats to remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately,” she added.
As a growing number of American cities work to remove statues commemorating the Confederacy, Trump defended the statues again Thursday, arguing that removing them uproots American “culture” and history.
“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he said in a series of tweets. “You … can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also … the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” he tweeted.
Activists expressed interest and support for removing statues honoring Confederate soldiers and the Mississippi state flag, which includes a Confederate symbol, after the June 2015 massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, where Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who was photographed with Confederate memorabilia, killed nine black Americans during a church prayer service.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill in July 2015 to bring down the Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds, less than a day after lawmakers in the state House of Representatives voted to remove it.
Centered in the Deep South but stretching from California to Massachusetts, roughly 1,500 Confederate symbols still exist on public land more than 150 years after the conclusion of the Civil War, according to 2016 data from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based advocacy nonprofit organization that tracks civil rights and hate crimes in the United States.
Roughly half of those symbols — 718 of them as of last year — are monuments and statues. Three in four of them were built before 1950, but at least one in 10 of them were dedicated during the civil rights movement or since the year 2000.