For nearly a century, statues honoring Confederate generals Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee have resided in Charlottesville, Virginia. Five years ago, a group of high school students pushed to remove the statues because both generals openly advocated for the slave trade to continue in America. After a year of working to remove the statues, activists scored a major victory when the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statues. Unfortunately, the city council's decision was put on ice as a legal challenge worked to preserve the two statues. As the legal challenge worked its way up to the Virginia Supreme Court, white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville for the "Unite The Right" rally. White nationalists looking to preserve the statues were met by counter-protesters working to remove the statues. In the midst of the chaos, a man drove into a crowd of counter-protesters, killed Heather Heyer and injured several others. Later on, the driver, Alex Fields Jr., was convicted of first-degree murder.
After everything that happened, statues honoring Jackson and Lee remained in Charlottesville until 2021. In April 2021, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor the Charlottesville City Council.
“The statute has no language which imposes regulation upon the movement or covering of war monuments and memorials erected before [a 1997 law that prohibits the removal of Confederate statues] was enacted. The circuit court erred in failing to interpret the statute according to its plain language meaning,” the court's decision reads.
Moving swiftly, the city of Charlottesville made arrangements to remove the two offensive statues over the weekend. Mayor Nikuyah Walker said the removal was "one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville."
“I’m ecstatic that we’re here now. It’s sad that it’s taken so much to get us to this point. But this is an incredible day," activist Don Gathers added.
For the time being, the statues will remain in storage until city officials decide what to do with them.
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