Charlottesville City Council votes to remove two confederate statues after hearing from public

The case started in 2017 after City Council voted to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from...
The case started in 2017 after City Council voted to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from Market Street Park. Councilors later added the removal of the statue of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from Court Square Park.(Source: WVIR/Gray TV)
Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 10:51 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Nearly 100 years after they were built, and almost four years since their near-removal sparked a violent white supremacist rally in the city, Charlottesville is getting rid of two confederate statues from two downtown parks.

During Monday evening’s virtual meeting, dozens of people made their opinions on the statues heard, and then at 10:47 p.m. came the unanimous vote to remove the statues

After years of legal battles, the statues’ days are officially numbered.

“We can tell our history without glorifying it. We can tell the history of the confederacy without saying ‘these are the people that we also put on statues and raise above everyone else to look down on other people,” said Daniel Fairley during the public hearing.

Fairley was among those who say the city is ready to start the process of removing two controversial confederate statues from its downtown parks.

Zyahna Bryant - who led the charge to remove the statues as a teenager - also spoke to council.

“What needs to happen is clear, and it’s up to you to make the right decision. And there’s no opportunity left to straddle the fence. Which side of history do you want to be on? Which kind of ancestor do you all wish to be?” Bryant asked.

But there was some pushback, including from Philip Hamilton, a Republican running to represent the city in Virginia’s 57th district of the House of Delegates.

“I propose specifically that we add a monument of Ulysses S. Grant right next to the General Robert E. Lee monument,” said Hamilton.

Early in the council meeting, a man in support of keeping the statues up said he wanted to hear more older White Southerner voices. But as the meeting went on, a number of people fitting that description rejected that idea, instead advocating for the removal of the statues.

For many, more of the discussion was about what to do after removing the statues. Artist Ramona Martinez had this idea:

“How many have melted down their symbols of war and turned them into symbols of justice? That in itself would be art,” said Martinez.

The statues of Robert E. Lee in Market Street Park and Stonewall Jackson in Court Square Park can’t be removed immediately. There’s a state-required 30-day window for the city to offer them to any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield.

But, this is a moment that’s been years in the making. Councilor Heather Hill spoke with NBC29 hours before the governing body met.

“I think that that’ll bring a lot of closure for some people. At the same time, there’s a lot of work yet to be done and I think we’re all committed to that work. I don’t think that just statues alone are certainly solving, you know, many issues we have in our community,” said Hill.

Minutes before the vote, Councilors Michael Payne, Lloyd Snook, and Mayor Nikuyah Walker spoke.

“I hope it can be a small part of collective transformation here locally,” Payne said.

Walker added: “We also need to remember that the work isn’t complete at that moment.”

That 30-day offer window will end July 8. If council has not approved an agreement with another group for relocation of the statues, the city manager can take action, such as having them covered or removed and placed in storage.

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