D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday scaled back her blueprint for canceling politically incorrect U.S. monuments and memorials after hitting a brick wall with the Trump administration.
The mayor’s D.C. Facilities and Commemorative Expressions (DCFACES) working group will limit its planned removal of historic figures from the public square to city properties, abandoning the original plan to target iconic federal structures like the Washington Monument.
“Mayor Bowser has asked the DCFACES Working Group to clarify and refine their recommendations to focus on local D.C., so no one attempts to confuse the working group’s focus on contextualizing not removing important monuments and memorials in D.C.,” the mayor’s office said in a statement to WTOP Radio.
The mayor met with a buzz saw of opposition over the working group’s plan released Tuesday to scrub the names of historic figures from D.C. schools, libraries, streets and neighborhoods, as well as remove or contextualize landmarks named after those who supported slavery or promoted systemic racism.
The initial report included eight federal assets: the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Newlands Memorial Fountain, the Columbus Fountain, and statues of Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, Albert Pike and George Washington.
The page titled “Asset Group 3: Landmarks, and commemorative works,” which identified the federal statues and memorials, was removed from the report Wednesday.
“Our decision-making prism focused on key disqualifying histories, including participation in slavery, systemic racism, mistreatment of, or actions that suppressed equality for, persons of color, women and LGBTQ communities and violation of the DC Human Right Act,” said the 24-page report.
The D.C. Human Rights Act wasn’t passed until 1977, long after Washington, Jefferson and the others had died, prompting criticism over holding figures from the past to modern social and political standards.
“I think it’s the most ridiculous waste of time and resources that I can think of,” said Robert Woodson, founder and president the Woodson Center. “What is the purpose? It’s part of the race-grievance arrogance where it’s defining everything in terms of its past. America is a country of redemption. None of us want to be defined by the worst of what we were when we were younger.”
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt described the plan to revamp or remove federal structures as dead on arrival, tweeting “Not on my watch. Never going to happen,” while White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the recommendations would go “absolutely nowhere” while President Trump was in office.
The mayor’s office responded in its Wednesday statement: “Interesting to see the White House comment on an intragovernmental report about how to recognize all sides of our history.”
Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, called for Congress to rescind the Home Rule Act, saying the proposal “puts the nail in the coffin for the argument that the District should be self-governed.”
“Protecting our national treasures, monuments and even politicians is too important to leave up to incompetent radicals dedicated to the destruction of America and our history,” Mr. Manning said in an email. “It is time to end this failed experiment by repealing home rule and jettisoning a significant portion of the current District of Columbia to beleaguer the poor citizens of Maryland.”
D.C. officials have argued that nobody had intended to move the Washington Monument or the Jefferson Memorial, but that the idea was to “contextualize” them with, for example, signs explaining that the first and third presidents owned slaves.
While Miss Bowser has no authority to rename or otherwise revamp national monuments, the report pointed out that she has a seat on the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, which she could leverage to “recommend the Federal government remove, relocate, or contextualize” the assets.
Miss Bowser launched DCFACES in July after protesters took to the streets following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody on May 25 to tear down statues and deface monuments on the grounds that some honored slave owners and Confederate generals.
Protesters also defaced the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial in Boston that honors Black Civil War soldiers and toppled a statue of Union Army Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in San Francisco, leading to allegations that the vandals were more interested in wreaking havoc than decrying racism.
“Across the country, communities are reflecting upon the systemic racism which has been engrained in our culture through policies and expressions impacting African Americans and other groups subject to discrimination,” Barbara Perry, who co-chaired the working group, said Tuesday in a statement.
The report recommended changing the names on 49 D.C. properties, including 21 schools, nine residential buildings and campuses; 12 playgrounds and fields, and seven government structures.
They include Jefferson Middle School, John Tyler Elementary School, Woodrow Wilson High School, Thomas Jefferson Hall, Jefferson Field and the Guy Mason Recreation Center.
Francis Scott Key, who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” and owned slaves, would be removed from Key Elementary School and the Key Bridge Boathouse.
Whose names would replace theirs? The working group found that more than 70% of the D.C. structures “are named for white men, many of whom were not District residents,” the report said.
“Priority should be placed on ensuring future assets, especially and including those recommended for renaming by this Working Group, include more women, people of color and LGBTQ Washingtonians,” the report said.