One year after George Floyd’s death, not much has changed at WV Capitol

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The death of George Floyd sparked renewed calls among long-time and new activists alike for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson Statue from capitol grounds.

On the contrary, lawmakers introduced a bill that would have made it illegal to remove any war monuments in West Virginia.

Neither side won.

“This last year has taught me how resistant to change our system is – state government especially – but then you know, even local government,” said James Cochran.

“This last year has taught me how resistant to change our system is.”

James Cochran

Last summer, Cochran was in the thick of the efforts surrounding the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue, organizing rallies, collecting thousands of signatures on a petition, and even fasting in front of it.

His inspiration, he says, came from the events surrounding George Floyd’s death.

“It was really inspiring to turn on the nightly news and see police violence and oppression of people of color as something that was showing up in places like Portsmouth, Ohio Ashland, Kentucky and here in Charleston, so I think there’s a lot of value to that,” he said.

Still, he’ll tell you it’s hard to say if any real change was made.

The statue still remains as the Governor and the State Capitol Grounds Commission have been shifting the responsibility of keeping or removing the statue back and forth among themselves.

Republican lawmakers introduced their own bill that would protect the Stonewall Jackson statue by making it illegal to remove war monuments.

While it passed the house, the bill died in a Senate committee.

“In the past, the Republican party was always the party that was saying ‘oh, we don’t want the government telling people what to do,’ and this seemed to run contrary to that,” said Cochran.

A look at bills that were passed under crime and corrections doesn’t bring up anything related to criminal justice or sentencing reform.

“It seems like the majority party wanted to spend a lot of time, or waste a lot of time, I should say, on tax reform and transgender issues instead of doing what’s right and focusing on real problems,” said Senator Mike Caputo (D-Marion).

Instead, bills that would instill penalties for impersonating law enforcement, forging lottery tickets, and permitting out-of-state residents to obtain conceal and carry permits were some of the measures that did pass.

Still, both Caputo Chochran agree there is more awareness now.

“It’s my hope that people will remember him and honor him by making sure that things like this don’t happen to anyone again,” said Caputo.

“It’s my hope that people will remember him and honor him by making sure that things like this don’t happen to anyone again.”

Sen. Mike Caputo

Cochran says for now he’s shifting his energy away from the statue to action at the local and community level.

“I guess my message to people will be to stay inspired,” he said.

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