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Charlottesville will remove two Confederate statues, but the next steps are uncertain

Almost four years after a violent rally, these statues are finally coming down.

A No Trespassing sign is displayed in front of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va.
In this Aug. 6, 2018, file photo, a No Trespassing sign is displayed in front of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va.
Associated Press

Charlottesville, Virginia, unanimously voted to remove two statues of Confederate generals from city parks during a city council meeting on Monday. The process to remove the statues began almost four years ago, according to CNN.

  • The statues in two different parks depict Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, sad The Washington Post.
  • In 2017, the statues were flashpoints for the “Unite the Right” riot of thousands of white nationalists. The violent riot led to the death of a counterprotester and injuries of dozens more, said CNN.

These statues are the most recent Confederate symbols up for removal in an ongoing national shift. Last year, over 150 Confederate symbols — including 94 statues — were removed across the U.S. following the murder of George Floyd, reported NPR.

Why are the statues being removed now?

Efforts to remove the statue began over four years ago. After the 2017 “Unite the Right” riot, the city council decided to remove the statues, said CNN.

  • Shortly after, a small group of citizens filed a lawsuit to prevent the statues’ removal with a Virginia judge issuing a permanent indictment that prohibited the statues from being removed, said The Washington Post.

In April, the Virginia Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit and allowed localities to decide on removing or relocating statues following public hearings, said CBS News.

  • The Charlottesville city council decided to hold another public hearing since no council members for the original 2017 vote remained in office, said The Washington Post.

The city’s communication director, Brian Wheeler, told CNN that Monday’s vote is a “major step forward towards telling a more complete history of our community. We look forward to transforming our downtown parks by removing these racist symbols of Charlottesville’s past.”

What happens to the statues now?

Charlottesville now has 30 days to solicit proposals from “any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield interested in acquiring the statues, or either of them, for relocation and placement,” said CNN. The city will take the proposals under consideration.

  • During the city council meeting, numerous individuals discouraged simply relocating the statues.

Dan Gathers, a local resident and community leader, has advocated for the removal of these statues for years, said CNN. In Gathers’ opinion, “No other locality should ever have to endure the evilness that they represent. They should be destroyed — melted down. Followed by, a ritualistic cleaning of the area they’ve dominated for so long.”

  • If the city does not reach an agreement from one of the proposals, the city manager will decide the next step for the statues, said CBS News.