Va. Supreme Court Sides with Charlottesville in Confederate Monuments Case

Apr 1, 2021

In an opinion issued Thursday, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that two Confederate statues in Charlottesville were never subject to a state law preventing removal of war memorials.

In this 2018 file photo, a visitor eats lunch in front of a statue of Robert E. Lee that is surrounded by fencing and a No Trespassing sign in Charlottesville.
Credit AP Photo/Steve Helber

The court found that the law, which was passed by the General Assembly in 1997, was not retroactive to monuments or statues erected before that date.  The statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were erected in Charlottesville in the 1920's. 

In 2017, the city announced plans to remove them, setting off a deadly rally by white supremacists and years of legal challenges.   According to the court's ruling, the city had the power to remove the statues all along.   "...The Statues were erected long before there was a statute which both authorized a city’s erection of a war memorial or monument and regulated the disturbance of or interference with that war memorial or monument," Justice Bernard Goodwyn wrote in the opinion.

Read the opinion here

In a statement Thursday, the city said it will plan the next steps for the statues, but did not lay out a timeline for their removal.  "City Council remains committed to the intentions stated in those (2017) resolutions and looks forward to working with the City Manager to accomplish its goals," the statement said.

City Councilor Lloyd Snook said removal could be expensive and is hoping to give the statues away to a park or museum that can afford to move them.  “Let’s just go ahead and see if we can get someone to take it off our hands for free, save hundreds of thousands of dollars and spend it on affordable housing or something.”

Snook said city council will meet privately on April 5th to explore next steps for the statues.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.