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DC Commission Recommends Washington and Jefferson Monuments be “removed, relocated, or contextualized”

A Washington, DC government advisory commission released a report on Monday recommending the city government rename dozens of city properties, and “remove, relocate, or contextualize” several federal memorials, including the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Memorial.

The DC Facilities and Commemorative Expressions (DCFACES) Working Group was formed by Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier in the summer with the specific task of ensuring that DC Government-owned facilities fall in line with “contemporary DC values.” The Mayor requested that the group make recommendations for those DC locations that honor a historical person who “in some way encouraged the oppression of African Americans and other communities of color or contributed to our long history of systemic racism.”

The Report found that more than 70% of DC-owned property are named after white men, many of whom were not residents of DC, recommended the renaming of over 49 of those properties. Those properties include public schools, residential buildings and campuses, parks, fields and playgrounds, and government buildings named after historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Francis Scott Key, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, and Woodrow Wilson.

The names of 78 streets, 10 neighborhoods, and 2 libraries were also addressed in the Report.

It was page 22 of the Report, however, that has raised great controversy since its release on Monday. Page 22 recommended that the federal government “remove, relocate, or contextualize” eight federal statues and memorials.

Those eight federal statues and memorials include the Columbus Fountain, the Benjamin Franklin Statue, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the George Washington Statue.

Mayor Bowser did not address the recommendations specifically, only stating via Twitter that she looks “forward to reviewing and advancing their recommendations.”

The Group based their recommendations on the disqualifying factors of “participation in slavery, systemic racism, mistreatment of, or actions that suppressed equality for, persons of color, women and LGBTQ communities and violation of the DC Human Right Act.”

A White House Statement from the Press Secretary released on Tuesday accused the DCFACES Working Group Report of “demolishing our history and destroying our great heritage.”

“President Donald J. Trump believes these places should be preserved, not torn down; respected, not hated; and passed on for generations to come.  As long as President Trump is in the White House, the mayor’s irresponsible recommendations will go absolutely nowhere, and as the mayor of our Nation’s capital city—a city that belongs to the American people—she ought to be ashamed for even suggesting them for consideration.”

Since receiving harsh criticism from various conservatives and the White House, a new version of the Report has been released. In this new version, the recommendation for federal monuments and statues has been removed.

Even if Mayor Bowser decided to move forward with any changes to federal monuments or statues, any such changes to federal property would have to be approved by a bill passed in Congress and hearings in both House and Senate committees, not to mention thousands (if not millions) of dollars to invest in the efforts.

The original report can be viewed here, and the updated version (one page shorter) can be viewed here.

As the Mayor reviews and the city considers the renaming of its own buildings, the Report recommends prioritizing “more women, people of color, and LGBTQ Washingtonians.”

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