Hoyer supports removal of Confederate statues in US Capitol, wants bust of judge taken down immediately
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday backed efforts to remove statues in the U.S. Capitol of Confederate figures and eyed one bust in particular for immediate replacement.
“The efforts to remove symbols of oppression and slavery and segregation and hate and bigotry I think are appropriate,” Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday, saying he is “sympathetic” to the effort.
Hoyer said he’s already pursuing the removal of the bust of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, which is on display in the Capitol. Taney, a Maryland native and justice from 1836 to 1864, wrote the Dred Scott decision that found black people were not American citizens.
“That was maybe one of the worst decisions made by the Supreme Court of the United States and we ought not to be honoring Roger Brooke Taney,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer co-sponsored legislation in March to remove the statue and replace it with a bust of Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, who in 1967 became the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court.
Taney’s bronze statue was already removed from Maryland’s State House grounds in Annapolis in 2017 and now sits in storage.
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis has set off worldwide protests against racial injustice and reignited a long-simmering debate in the United States on whether Confederate flags and monuments to figures who upheld slavery should still stand today.
In recent days, statues around the country have been toppled, defaced and targeted for removal as protesters demand that symbols of the United States’ painful history of slavery and racial inequality no longer be celebrated.
A Confederate monument in Jacksonville, Fla. came down Tuesday morning. A day earlier, in Indianapolis, a 35-foot monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers was taken down. The mayor in Birmingham, Ala. led the removal of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument a week ago.
In Virginia, the Confederate statue “Appomattox” came down in Alexandria last week and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue in Richmond. And Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy is open to renaming military bases named after Confederate generals, including Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Activists and some Democrats have been calling for a removal of 10 statues in the Capitol that honor the Confederacy and slavery, and Hoyer didn’t address plans on how to remove these other monuments, except to say that he’s supportive of the effort.
“We should not honor a battle that sought to preserve the enslavement of one people by another people,” Hoyer said. “We ought not to have in our communities symbols of dehumanizing other human beings or symbols that denigrate people because of the color of their skin. So I am sympathetic to this effort.”
However, certain statues on display in the Capitol are at the discretion of states. Each state gets to honor two icons at the Capitol in Statuary Hall and it’s up to state officials to decide who will be on display. The bust that Hoyer has targeted is not part of the Statuary Hall collection and presumably would have fewer hurdles for removal.