Charlottesville confederate statues are war monuments protected by state law, Virginia judge rules
A Virginia judge has ruled that the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in Charlottesville are protected war monuments and cannot be removed from the city without the permission of state officials.
Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Moore, in a nine-page ruling, said that neither the intentions of the people who erected the controversial statues nor the way these monuments make people feel can change the fact that the statues pay homage to the Civil War. The judge, in his ruling, also cited state code saying that it is illegal for municipalities to remove such monuments.
"I find this conclusion inescapable," Moore said. "It is the very reason the statues have been complained about from the beginning. It does no good pretending they are something other than what they actually are."
The former chair of the city's Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces, Don Gathers said that he disagreed with the judge's ruling because it retraumatizes the city.
"Just because something is legal, doesn't mean it's right or it's moral. I'm fearful what this has done is given the vile evilness that descended upon us in August of 2017 to come back," Gathers said.
The judge's ruling comes almost two years after a white nationalist gathering, the Unite the Right rally, left a counterprotester, Heather Heyer, dead.
A self-identified white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. deliberately rammed his car into Heyer and several other counterprotesters, injuring 40 others. The rally occurred on August 11, 2017, amidst the backdrop of controversy spurred by the removal of Confederate monuments across the country in response to the 2015 Charleston church shooting.
The Charlottesville City Council, in response to the rally, had voted to remove the Confederate statues in the city. The city had also covered the statues with black tarp as it mourned the death of Heyer and two troopers who lost their lives during the rally.
Judge Moore, however, on Monday ruled that the tarps should be removed because the city never defined what a "temporary" shrouding meant. He also added that the tarps hindered the public's right to see the monuments and enjoy the parks.