The Supreme Court of Virginia Thursday ruled that the city of Charlottesville can remove two Confederate statues, including one of General Robert E. Lee for protesting the removal of which a deadly white supremacist rally took place in 2017.
The court overturned a Charlottesville Circuit Court decision in favor of a group of residents who sued to block the city from taking down statues of General Lee and General Thomas Jackson. Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against the city were the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., and The Monument Fund, Inc. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the removal of the statues would violate a 1997 state law prohibiting localities from removing Confederate war memorials.
The court stated that the law provides localities with the authority to create war memorials and monuments, and that the prohibition on removing them “only applies to monuments and memorials erected prospectively under that statute’s grant of authority.”
Due to the fact that the statues were erected before the statute was enacted, and that “[t]he statute has no language which imposes regulation upon the movement or covering of war monuments and memorials erected before [the law] was enacted,” the court determined Charlottesville can take down the statues.
The ruling comes after the Virginia General Assembly approved a law last year that allows localities to remove war memorials. Many monuments across the state have already been removed as a result of this new legislation.