Gov. Bevin says removing Confederate monuments would set "dangerous precedent"

08/15/2017 03:32 PM

FRANKFORT — Gov. Matt Bevin said Tuesday that he believes it’s “a dangerous precedent” to begin removing Confederate monuments and ignore U.S. history while at the same time voicing his support for a “thoughtful” and “healthy” dialogue on the subject.

His comments come days after a woman was killed in Charlottesville, Va., after a car sped into a group of counter-protestors rallying against white nationalists who were protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

A pair of Virginia state troopers also died in a helicopter crash as they monitored Saturday’s unrest.

As the Republican nominee in the 2015 gubernatorial election, Bevin said he wanted to see a statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, removed from Kentucky’s Capitol rotunda, saying in a statement at the time that it’s “important never to forget our history, but parts of our history are more appropriately displayed in museums, not on government property.”

But Bevin told reporters Tuesday that he doesn’t “think it is a given that that’s a good idea” when asked about removing Confederate statues from government property.

“I don’t,” he said. “I never have. I think these are decisions that should be made by people, as is the case in this building, what’s located in this building is comprised of a panel of people who make decisions as it relates to what is in the Capitol.”

Talk of removing Jefferson Davis’ statue from the Capitol followed a racially charged shooting at a predominantly African-American church in Charleston, S.C., that killed nine.

In August 2015, the Kentucky Historic Properties Advisory Commission decided to keep the 15-foot marble statue in the rotunda but emphasize Jefferson’s context in history.

Bevin added that he hoped for “thoughtful” conversations when it came to removing Confederate monuments and called racism and bigotry “heinous,” with no place in Kentucky.

“I think it’s healthy to have this level of discussion and dialogue,” he said. “It is tragic that it takes the loss of life, whether it’s in this state or any other state, in order to accelerate this level of conversation, but I think one of the most dangerous things to understand is there’s no side in any of the hatred that is more right than the other side that is spewing hatred.

“The problem is when you have people who are diametrically opposed to each other but each as hateful as the next clashing with one another and willing to take the life of an innocent person for some reason that they may not even fully understand, there’s something wrong with that. So having dialogue that comes from that is healthy. It’s good. I think it is cathartic, and these discussions about what belongs where, what should be located where, this is healthy.”

Bevin also said that many presidents and senators in the past held views that would not align with contemporary norms and that removing them “from the annals of history as a result of that stance is a dangerous precedent.”

“When you look at what people like a Pol Pot did or a Stalin did or a Hitler did, one of the first things you do is you remove any semblance of culture and of history,” he said. “You try to be revisionist. You look what people are doing with ISIS, with the destruction of any kind of history of a different culture when they move into a new territory.

“I think it is a very dangerous precedent to pretend that your history is not your history. Doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. Doesn’t mean you have to agree with it or even like it, but to pretend it did not exist, to remove it from the landscape of discussion and the ability to learn from is a very dangerous proposition.”

In the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced he will ask the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council to approve a petition to move two Confederate statues from the former county courthouse to Veterans Park.

That prompted the Traditionalist Worker Party, which was part of the white nationalist protest in Virginia, to announce its plans to schedule a rally in the city “sooner rather than later,” according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.


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