As Richmond’s Confederate statues come down, Charlottesville’s remain standing

Despite the fact Confederate monuments in Virginia’s capital of Richmond have started to come down after Wednesday’s emergency order by Mayor Levar Stoney, Charlottesville’s statues, which in part led to the new law allowing localities to remove Confederate monuments, are still in place.

“Here in Charlottesville, we have a monument to Robert E. Lee in Market Street Park, and a monument to Stonewall Jackson in Justice Park, both in the heart of downtown, both still standing,” said reporter Hawes Spencer.
Even though Charlottesville’s city council voted to remove the statues in 2017, it hasn’t happened, despite the Unite the Right white nationalist rally, in which counter protester Heather Heyer was killed.
“Those statues never did get removed because there was a lawsuit, where the plaintiffs successfully showed that the state law — as it was written back then — prevented anyone from removing such war memorials,” Spencer said.
After Gov. Ralph Northam signed the law granting local control over the future of the Confederate monuments, the plaintiffs who had won in court “essentially gutted” their own case, because “they knew the monuments’ days in Charlottesville were coming to an end,” he said.
Charlottesville appealed the ruling to Virginia’s Supreme Court, which hasn’t decided whether to hear the case.
Despite the new law, which went into effect Wednesday, a portion of the injunction from the lawsuit prohibits Charlottesville from taking action.
“The city says that it will file a motion with the Virginia Supreme Court, eliminating the injunction that prevents it from removing the monuments,” said Spencer.
Once the lawsuit is wrapped up, the city said it will move forward with the processes dictated by the new law to have the statues removed.
The Lee and Jackson statues aren’t the only Confederate monuments in downtown Charlottesville.
“Albemarle County, which is the doughnut around Charlottesville, has a courthouse historically located right in the heart of the city,” said Spencer.
The county courthouse, as well as the grounds of University of Virginia, are considered Albemarle County.
While Charlottesville’s government has made its preferences clear, Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the county’s Confederate statue on Aug. 6.
“It looks like they’re putting the issue on their agenda, and they’re going to have to speak up and decide whether they want this Civil War monument standing in front of the courthouse,” said Spencer.
Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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