Charlottesville City Council votes again to remove Confederate statues

The Charlottesville City Council in Virginia has once again voted to get rid of two statues of Confederate generals, setting the stage for the controversial monuments to come down as soon as next month.

Council members unanimously approved a resolution Monday allowing for the removal of statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson that have been on display in city parks for close to a century.

Passage of the resolution started a 30-day period for Charlottesville officials to hear from parties interested in acquiring either or both of the statues. Work to remove them could then commence beginning July 8.

“The statues need to go. But we also need to remember that the work isn’t complete at that moment,” said Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker, an independent who sits on the five-member council.

Efforts to rid Charlottesville of the longstanding Lee and Jackson statues until recently were complicated by a state law that had prevented localities from removing Confederate war memorials.

That law was revised to allow for the removal of Confederate memorials in July 2020, however, and the state’s highest court issued a ruling in April clearing the way for Charlottesville to act.

Previous city councils voted to remove the Lee and Jackson monuments in February 2017 and September 2017, respectively, but legal battles kept both in place during the roughly four years that have followed.

Supporters of the statues have rallied in Charlottesville, most infamously at the “Unite the Right” protest that attracted far-right extremists to the city on Aug. 12, 2017. The rally descended into chaos when clashes erupted between participants and counterprotesters, culminating in the deaths of three people, including a local paralegal and two Virginia state troopers.

“Things changed after Aug. 12,” council member Lloyd Snook, a Democrat, said Monday shortly before voting on the latest resolution to remove the Lee and Jackson monuments.

“There is no question that we found that these statues had become, in Charlottesville, at least, a magnet for the kinds of folks that we really didn’t want to have coming to Charlottesville at all,” Mr. Snook said. “Magnets for racists, Nazis, however you want to characterize them, and ultimately three people died as a result.”

The council has asked that any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield interested in acquiring the statues for relocation and placement to contact Charlotesville within 30 days.

If the window expires without Charlottesville reaching a deal, the city manager can then take action on either or both statue, including covering them up or beginning the removal process.

Heather Heyer, 32, was protesting against “Unite the Right” in downtown Charlottesville when one of the rallygoers, a 20-year-old Ohio man, killed her with his car by driving into a crowd of demonstrators. Virginia State Police Lt, H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40, also died in a helicopter crash that occurred as they attempted to monitor the chaos from above.

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