The Virginia Supreme Court has cleared the way for cities across the state to remove memorials that honor Confederate soldiers and generals. In a recent ruling, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that structures built before 1997 are not protected by the state's ban on removing war memorials.
"The Statues accepted by the City of Charlottesville in the 1920s were not acquired pursuant to the authority conveyed by [the state law governing the erection and removal of war memorials], so the removal or covering of those statues is not regulated by the prohibitions stated in [the law]," the state Supreme Court wrote.
The ruling from the Virginia Supreme Court will allow the city of Charlottesville to remove statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Four years ago, the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park. However, their vote was quickly followed by the infamous "Unite The Right" rally that left more than a dozen people injured and one person dead. The rally was coupled with a lawsuit from the "Monument Fund" that claimed the city had no grounds to remove the statue. A local circuit court sided with the "Monument Fund" and the statue remained. Three years later, the statue became a source of tension yet again as protests against police brutality and racism raged on. After a day of peaceful protests, the statue was vandalized. With this most recent ruling, Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker is expected to swiftly remove these statues.
Charlottesville is not the only city in Virginia that features statues honoring Confederate generals. Late last year, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam moved to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee that sat inside the state capitol. Now, he turns his sights toward the Robert E. Lee monument that sits on Monument Avenue.
"That statue has been there for a long time. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now. So we're taking it down," he said.
"Make no mistake, removing a symbol is important but it's only a step. It doesn't mean problems are solved. There are still monuments of inequalities that exist in our commonwealth and in this country."
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