- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) - A portrait of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart has been removed from a Patrick County courtroom in a town named after the rebel general.

Judge Martin F. Clark issued a statement on Tuesday announcing that he removed the portrait from the Circuit Court’s courtroom in Stuart on Aug. 19, the Martinsville Bulletin reports (https://bit.ly/1fURDkT).

“The courtroom should be a place every litigant and spectator finds fair and utterly neutral,” Clark wrote in the statement. “In my estimation, the portrait of a uniformed Confederate general - and a slave owner himself - does not comport with that essential standard.”

Clark wrote that he is aware his decision will upset many residents of the county, particularly given that the courthouse is located in a town named in Stuart’s honor.

“It is my goal - and my duty as a judge - to provide a trial setting that is perceived by all participants as fair, neutral and without so much as a hint of prejudice,” Clark wrote. “Confederate symbols are, simply put, offensive to African-Americans, and this reaction is based on fact and clear, straightforward history.”

The judge said that in spite of his personal views, a policy allowing Confederate flags to be displayed at demonstrations and events outside the building in the court square won’t change.

“Despite my disdain for all versions of the Confederacy’s flag, despite the patently offensive character of the these flags, and despite my belief that no one will take us seriously if we continue to insist these emblems represent who we are in 2015, this particular courthouse space - the courtyard - is still the functional equivalent of the town square, a marketplace for speech, ideas and discourse,” Clark wrote.

Confederate symbols have come under increased public scrutiny since the June 17 massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Information from: Martinsville Bulletin, https://www.martinsvillebulletin.com


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