On Sept. 5, I brought forward a resolution to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to condemn the horrendous acts that occurred in Charlottesville and recommend the renaming of Confederate symbols in Prince William County.
The resolution was addressed on Oct. 3, following two hours of citizens’ time with a standing-room only crowd at McCoart. Every citizen who spoke supported the passage of the resolution. It is abundantly clear that county residents are ready to condemn hate, violence and racism and rename Jefferson Davis Highway, Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Jackson Volunteer Fire Department.
This resolution was prepared with the input of numerous community members who wanted to take tangible action to move us toward healing from the terrible legacy of slavery. I also feel strongly that these last few vestiges of a very difficult, dark and painful time need to be changed because they serve as a constant reminder – in the first and only majority-minority county in Virginia – of a time that is best left in the past.
Rather than strip us of our history, the resolution sought to relegate these memories to where they belong: In museums and history books, where we can learn from the mistakes of our past, without glorifying or celebrating those who fought to protect the Confederacy and its “peculiar institution.”
However, my resolution didn’t receive a second that would have allowed for debate. The inaction is an example of the most egregious anti-democratic action an elected board can take. My colleagues claimed that we needed more community input before acting on such a resolution, even as the board chamber was filled with community members supportive of the resolution. In any other situation, that would be considered the will of the citizenry.
If the board wanted to encourage discussion and debate, they had the opportunity to do so and failed miserably. Instead, they chose to stymy discussion and free themselves from having to take a position on this emotional issue. My colleagues did not have to vote for or against the renaming of Confederate symbols in Prince William.
Worse yet, Chairman Corey Stewart ordered the police to “clear the board chambers” of the citizens gathered to support the resolution. This was the low point of what an elected body should stand for. Unfortunately, this type of stunt has become a regular thing in Prince William County and change is needed.
For me, I will continue to listen to the community I serve, and to speak on behalf of social and economic justice policies. Everyone deserves to be heard by their elected leaders, and I will continue to fight to make sure that all Prince William County residents have a voice in the future of our community.
Supervisor Frank Principi, a Democrat, is the Woodbridge representative on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, and lives in the Woodbridge District.