Members of the Charlottesville City Council have voted unanimously to remove statues honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
"We look forward to transforming our downtown parks by removing these racist symbols of Charlottesville's past," Charlottesville Communications Director Chad Wheeler said.
"There remains much work to be done in Charlottesville's future as we work towards the goals of racial and economic justice, but this is an important milestone in that journey."
In 2017, both statues surfaced in national conversations about racism and discrimination when white nationalist groups gathered in the city for the "Unite The Right" rally. While certain groups gathered to "protect" these statues, opposing groups gathered to protest against racism and advocate for the removal of these confederate landmarks. Tragically, James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his vehicle into a group of opposing protesters and left one person dead.
Two years after the rally, a push to remove the statues landed in court. Circuit Judge Richard Moore ruled that neither the Robert E. Lee statue or the Stonewall Jackson statue could be removed because Virginia law prohibited the removal of war memorials. Over time, the case moved up through the state court system and advanced to the Virginia Supreme Court. In the end, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that individual cities can make their own decisions regarding confederate statues.
With the blessing of the Virginia Supreme Court, members of the Charlottesville City Council planned a hearing for citizens to express their feelings on the matter. While there was pushback from residents, the city council moved to remove statues by the second week of August.
"The next step now is the actual removal. The process needs to be smooth, seamless and expeditious," Charlottesville resident Don Gathers explained.
"No other locality should ever have to endure the evilness that they represent. They should be destroyed — melted down. Followed by, a ritualistic cleaning of the area they've dominated for so long."
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