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.
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.
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.