CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 6/20/19 @ 5:35 p.m.
The debate over whether or not to remove Confederate monuments has sparked strong opinions all across the country during the past couple years.
Howard Swint wants the Stonewall Jackson monument taken down from the West Virginia Capitol grounds, along with other statues dedicated to the confederacy around the state.
On Thursday, one man took the fight to the West Virginia Capitol. Howard Swint wants the Stonewall Jackson monument taken down, along with other statues dedicated to the confederacy around the state.
While many believe these memorials need to stay because of the historical value, Swift believes the monuments promote hate speech, racism and white supremacy.
"We should put it in the darkest corner in the basement of the Cultural Center, and run “12 Years a Slave,” the movie in the background, so everyone could see what they stood for, what they fought for, and why we should move on from those days of the past,” Swint said.
The Stonewall Jackson monument first stood on the Capitol grounds in 1910, which was located in downtown Charleston. The monument was moved in 1926 to its current site at the corner of Kanawha Boulevard and California Avenue.
Confederate monuments have been coming down all over in the past couple of years including Annapolis, Maryland, Richmond, Virginia, and Louisville, Kentucky, among many other places.
More than 150 people came out to the West Virginia Capitol Sunday, standing in solidarity with Charlottesville and also voicing concerns over the statue of a confederate general on the capitol grounds.
In addition to holding a vigil for the victims and city of Charlottesville, the group called on West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to take down the statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
"I want people to know that hillbillies do not stand for this type of hate," Dustin White of Charleston tells WSAZ. "This is an issue that has been laying under the surface for quite some time."
The group was met with a few counter-protesters, many of them veterans, who say taking the statue down would be an act of trying to remove history.
"What they're doing is they're destroying history. They're taking history away from the kids," James Chapman of South Charleston says. "Just because some idiots in Charlottesville went crazy, some KKK members and some white supremacists, a bunch of idiots. That doesn't mean that we're idiots in West Virginia, in Charleston."
The group met at the capitol complex for approximately two hours, listening to several speakers and chanting at times.
Everything remained peaceful, although Capitol police, Charleston police and West Virginia State Police were all present.
All requests to reach Governor Justice for a statement went unanswered.
ORIGINAL STORY 8/13/17
One day after a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. turned deadly, several West Virginians plan to hold a gathering of their own.
Groups, including Rise Up WV and the Democratic Socialists of America, intend to gather at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson statue on the Capitol grounds in Charleston.
According to a press release, the event organizers plan to call for the statue's removal and condemn racism in the Mountain State.
Organizers say the West Virginia event will also serve to mourn the deaths and injuries to civil rights leaders in Charlottesville, Saturday. A "Unite the Right" rally, protesting the proposed removal of a monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, turned deadly when police say James Alex Fields, Jr., of Maumee, Ohio, drove into a group of counter-protesters. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old, was killed as a result.
Two Virginia State Troopers also died in a helicopter crash that occurred while they were monitoring the event.
Organizers of Sunday's gathering in West Virginia compared the Lee memorial to the Jackson statue, noting in a press release that both were generals who fought for the confederacy in the United States Civil War.
"[Jackson's] greatest accomplishment was killing thousands of people -- including West Virginians -- to preserve the institution of slavery," event organizer Jack Deskins said in the release. "Why do we still honor this man?"
We've reached out to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, inquiring about the original inspiration for the statue's construction on Capitol grounds and whether officials are considering removing it in light of the fatal rally in Virginia. We have not heard back yet. As soon as we do, we'll let you know.