Venice, Italy | AFP |Hollywood stars George Clooney and Julianne Moore on Saturday weighed in on the debate raging in the United States over statues and other symbols of the pro-slavery side in the American Civil War.
The pair spoke out on the issue at the Venice film festival, where they are promoting Clooney’s “Suburbicon”, a drama that deals with segregation in 1950s America and stars Moore.
They said they backed moves such as a ban on the Confederate flag being hung on public buildings and the rebranding of schools named for heroes of the losing side in the 1861-65 Civil War.
Moore said statues of the Old South’s generals and the like “must be removed”.
“You simply cannot have these figures from the Civil War in towns … for our children to see,” said Moore.
The actress has personally been involved in a campaign to have the J.E.B Stuart High School in Virginia renamed. She attended the school, which is named afer a Confederate general.
“There is a group of people who went to that school who feel now as adults that we need to change this,” Moore said.
“The children can’t change it but we can and the fact that we take this action means that my children will be in a better place.”
– Clooney the rebel –
Clooney revealed that he had always opted to be on the rebel side when taking part in Civil War re-enactments while he was growing up in Kentucky.
“You got to pick if you wanted to be a Union or a rebel soldier, and I was like you want to be the rebel’, it was fun.
“You didn’t really understand the history of the Confederate flag. That as a flag it was designed to be carried into battle against the United States of America in favour of slavery, and they lost.
“Now if you want to wear it on your t-shirt or hang if off your front lawn, have at it! Good luck with your neighbours.
“But to hang it on a public building where partially African-American taxpayers are paying for it, that cannot stand and we have to come to terms with those things. That is important.”
Americans are deeply divided on the issue. Those who want such statues removed say they amount to a celebration of individuals who supported slavery and are a focal point for a new generation of white supremacists.
Others argue they should stay in place, either because they see the figures commemorated as part of their cultural heritage or because they feel the fact they were put up in the first place reflects US history as it was lived.
The movement to remove Confederate symbols has been energised by the recent death in Charlottesville, Virginia of a woman who was hit by car driven by a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi.