A Trump-appointed federal judge has temporarily halted removal proceedings for the Confederate memorial at Arlington National Cemetery that began Monday, the Associated Press reported.
Defend Arlington filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Sunday for a temporary restraining order, the AP reported. Work had already begun to remove the bronze elements of the memorial in accordance with recommendations in the Congressionally-mandated Naming Commission’s final report to scrub Department of Defense (DOD) assets of any symbolism that could be seen to honor the Confederacy.
A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, according to the AP. The memorial has not been dismantled.
“Safety fencing was installed around the Memorial yesterday, Dec. 17 and the deliberate deconstruction process is currently underway,” cemetery spokesperson Rebecca Wardwell told the Daily Caller News Foundation earlier on Monday.
The Army previously said it anticipated the removal process to take place over four days.
The cemetery claims removing the memorial is required by Congress and that doing so will comply with environmental regulations and leave the 400 Confederate graves encircling the monument undisturbed, according to the AP. However, Defend Arlington’s lawsuit argues the Army unlawfully bypassed certain regulations.
“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,” the lawsuit states, according to the AP.
A Department of Defense spokesperson referred the DCNF to Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery did not immediately respond to a renewed request for comment.
U.S. District Judge Rossie Alston, who issued the restraining order, said the parties should be prepared to discuss Defend Arlington’s prior, dismissed case at the court date, saying it could affect his decision whether or not to extend the stay beyond Wednesday, the AP reported.
Alston wrote that he “takes very seriously the representations of officers of the Court and should the representations in this case be untrue or exaggerated the Court may take appropriate sanctions,” AP reported.
The new lawsuit differs from the previous one in that the plaintiffs now have concrete evidence the removal efforts are disturbing the graves, David McCallister, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Save Southern Heritage Florida, told the AP.
“The Memorial represents a symbol of reconciliation aimed at healing a country divided during a brutal sectional war and reconstruction,” Defend Arlington wrote in the prior lawsuit.
BREAKING: Trump-appointed Judge Rossie Alston has issued a temporary restraining order halting the removal of the Reconciliation Monument at Arlington National Cemetery. pic.twitter.com/7AyGspadZs
— Rep. Andrew Clyde (@Rep_Clyde) December 18, 2023
Congress created the Naming Commission in 2021, which was tasked with identifying and removing names, bases and other DOD assets honoring the Confederate States of America. The final report recommended removing the bronze upper and leaving the granite base intact to avoid disturbing graves.
“The elaborately designed monument offers a nostalgic, mythologized vision of the Confederacy, including highly sanitized depictions of slavery,” Arlington National Cemetery’s web page reads.
Investigative reporter, defense.
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