US lawmakers introduce bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol

Two congressional lawmakers introduced a bill that would remove Confederate statues from the US Capitol.

The bill, from Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Bennie Thompson, came after nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and racial profiling, triggered by George Floyd’s death in police custody, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

“Americans in all 50 states and millions of people around the world are marching to protest racism and police violence directed at people of color, and yet across the country, Confederate statues and monuments still pay tribute to white supremacy and slavery in public spaces,” Lee said in a statement.

Thompson said “we do this in a spirit of racial reconciliation and healing.”

There are currently 11 statues of people who served in the Confederacy, either as officials or soldiers, displayed in the Capitol complex.

The statues are all part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, created in 1864 with a law that allows states to select two statues of deceased individuals to be displayed in the US Capitol.

The legislation from the two Democrats would remove all of the Confederate statues in the collection within 120 days. The statues could either be reclaimed by the states or given to the Smithsonian Institution, a US museum and research complex.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, on Wednesday called for the removal of the statues.

“Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals. Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said Thursday that a decision on Confederate statues in the Capitol should be left up to the states.

“Every state is allowed two statues, they can trade them out at any time… a number of states are trading them out now. But I think that’s the appropriate way to deal with the statue issue. The states make that decision,” McConnell told reporters.

US President Donald Trump has defended allowing Confederate statues and buildings named after Confederate officials to remain in place.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted he “will not even consider” renaming US Army bases that were named for Confederate figures despite openness from top Pentagon officials to the idea.