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Charlottesville to Remove Confederate Monuments Saturday

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AP Photo / Steve Helber, File
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Charlottesville says a Confederate monument that helped spark a violent white supremacist rally is set to come down Saturday. The city said in a news release Friday afternoon that the equestrian statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as well as a nearby one of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson will be removed Saturday.

The development comes more than five years after a 2016 removal push focused on the Lee statue. As those plans emerged, the monument became a rallying point for white supremacists and other racist groups, culminating in the violent “Unite the Right” rally in 2017.

Here's the full press release from the city:

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - The City of Charlottesville will conduct a removal project for its two Confederate statues on Saturday, July 10, 2021. Preparations around Market Street Park and Court Square Park will begin on Friday, July 9, 2021 and include the installation of protective fencing and the posting of notices identifying No Parking zones.

On Saturday, only the statuary will be removed. Their stone bases will be left in place temporarily and removed at a later date.

Statue Removal for Storage

Through the resolution passed by Charlottesville City Council on June 7, 2021 (timeline below), the City Manager is authorized by City Council to cover and/or remove the statues for placement in storage.

City Council has the sole authority to determine the ultimate, final disposition of the statues. The City Manager is not authorized to destroy the statues or to sell them without further action by City Council. Both statues will be stored in a secure location on City property until City Council makes a final decision on disposition.

During the past month, the City has solicited for expressions of interest from any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield interested in acquiring the statues, or either of them, for relocation and placement. The Charlottesville City Manager has received ten responses thus far – six out of state and four in-state – that are all under review. The City remains open to additional expressions of interest.

Public Viewing Areas

Designated public viewing areas for the removals will be established in both parks. The City will rely on its local media partners to broadcast the event for the public that wishes to watch remotely. The exact schedule of the removal project is subject to change and may be impacted by weather and other site conditions. Protective fencing will safely separate the public from the work zone.

Street Closures

To ensure appropriate access for the equipment, numerous streets and sidewalks will be closed from 12 a.m. Saturday, July 10, 2021 to 11:59 p.m. Saturday, July 10, 2021 (a 24-hour period, all of Saturday). A map of the closures and restrictions, as well as a detailed street-by-street breakdown, can be found here. Parking on impacted streets will be prohibited beginning at 12 a.m. Saturday, July 10, 2021 and vehicles remaining after that time will be towed.

Local residents and businesses are encouraged to review the closures, in advance, and to plan accordingly. Public transit service will also be impacted. Changes to this plan may be made as necessary. Public safety personnel and vehicles will have access to all areas of Downtown during the statue removals.

Media Registration

Members of the news media may submit requests for credentials allowing access to designated media areas which are adjacent to the public viewing areas. There is NO designated parking or access to power.  

Due to the limited space, only two members of each media company will be issued credentials which are transferrable within the organization.

Registration should be submitted online at www.charlottesville.gov/media. Registered media will receive any press updates shared during the event. Updates will also be shared via the City’s Twitter account @CvilleCityHall. All media inquiries should be sent to media@charlottesville.gov or (434) 226-0834.

Background & Timeline

In March 2016 Charlottesville City Council received a petition to remove the statue/ sculpture of Confederate General Robert E. Lee (“Lee Statue”) from its location in Market Street Park. Following receipt of the petition, City Council established an advisory body referred to as the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces (“BRC”). The mission specified by City Council for the BRC was to provide City Council with options for telling the full story of Charlottesville’s history of race relations and for changing the City’s narrative through its public spaces, specifically including ways in which the City’s public spaces could be utilized to address race (including, among other items, removing or adding context to existing Confederate statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee (located in Market Street Park) and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

The BRC’s Final Report was presented to City Council on December 19, 2016.  The Final Report indicated that removal and relocation, or contextualization in place, were options recommended by the BRC. The City Council gave consideration to the Final Report and to many public comments received directly by councilors via email and community contacts.

February 6, 2017: by resolution City Council announced its intent to rename Lee Park (the site of the Lee Statue). This intention has been carried out; the park is now named Market Street Park.  

February 6, 2017: by resolution City Council announced its intention to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from the park then named Lee Park, and requested staff to bring Council a range of recommended options over a 60-day period.

February 6, 2017: by resolution City Council specified a number of actions it desired to implement, to implement the recommendations of the BRC Final Report, including (i) a Master redesign of the public spaces in the North Downtown and Court Square Districts, (ii) removing or contextualizing the Lee and Jackson Statues within the City’s public parks, (iii) renaming Jackson Park (which has been carried out; the park is now named Court Square Park), (iv) replacing the slave auction block, (v) identifying and acknowledging the site of the Freedman’s Bureau, and (vi) other actions possible.

March 3, 2017: Various individuals and organizations filed a lawsuit (“Lawsuit”) against the City, City Council, and individual City Councilors, to obtain temporary and permanent injunctive relief preventing all of the actions contemplated by Council’s February 2017 resolutions. (On April 1, 2021 the Virginia Supreme Court decided the lawsuit in favor of the City).

August 12, 2017: UTR Rally.

August 21-22, 2017: by motion City Council voted to approve a motion directing the Lee and Jackson Statues to be covered with black fabric, in mourning for lives lost the weekend of August 12, 2017. (The covers remained in place until February 26, 2018 when they were removed by order of the Circuit Court).

September 5, 2017: by resolution City Council announced its intent to remove a statue/sculpture of Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson from the park that is now known as Court Square Park, stating that such action should be taken as soon as possible, pending resolution of the Lawsuit.  

November 6, 2017:  by resolution City Council voted to revise its prior approach for a Master redesign of the public spaces in the North Downtown and Court Square Districts, including Market Street Park and Court Square Park. The 2017 City Council’s revised approach called for a two phase Master Plan, one phase to occur prior to removal of the intended removal of the Lee and Jackson Statues and a second phase to occur post-removal.

July 1, 2020: effective July 1, 2020 the General Assembly removed all prohibitive language from the provisions of Va. Code §15.2-1812 (the version that was in effect 2017 – 2019).  The legislature transformed the statute into one that is permissive in nature, and that sets out a 60-day process by which localities may make decisions about whether to remove, relocate, contextualize or cover monuments or memorials covered by the re-worked statute.

April 21, 2021: the Virginia Supreme Court entered its final mandate entering judgment in favor of the City.

May 3, 2021: by resolution City Council requested the Clerk to publish notice within a newspaper of Council’s intent to remove, relocate, contextualize or cover the Lee and Jackson Statues and to set a date for a public hearing thereon. Each of these actions has been referred to within resolutions or motions approved by City Council in 2017 (copies attached). The May 3, 2021 resolution also requested the Board of Architectural Review to consider Council’s stated intentions.

May 18, 2021: the Board of Architectural Review reviewed Council’s announced intent to remove, relocate, contextualize or cover the Statues.  

June 7, 2021: City Council held a public hearing to receive public comment regarding Council’s intent to remove, relocate, contextualize or cover the Lee and Jackson Statues. By resolution City Council voted unanimously to remove the Lee and Jackson Statues and to commence a 30-day offering period for relocation and placement to any museum, historical society, government, or military battlefield. The 30-day period ran through July 7, 2021.

July 7, 2021: by resolution City Council Appropriated Funds ($1,000,000) for removal, storage, and/or covering of the Lee and Jackson Statues, and the statue depicting Sacajawea, Meriwether Lewis, and William Clark.