The two Confederate statues that ignited the deadly 2017 Charlottesville riots can now be removed.
On Thursday, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the city of Charlottesville can remove statues of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and General “Stonewall” Jackson, CNN reports. The debate around the removal of the statues is what motivated thousands of white nationalists to take to the streets of Charlottesville for the Unite the Right Rally in 2017. Counter-protestor Heather Heyer was killed as a result of the heightened racial tension the rally brought about.
In the months after the Charlottesville riots, court documents were filed against removing the statues from public spaces due to a 1997 state statute that barred the removal of “memorials and monuments to past wars.” However, on Thursday, Virginia’s highest court overruled that decision, saying that the murals, erected in the 1920s, “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 S. Bernard Goodwyn said in an opinion.
The ruling went on to say the monuments “had no retroactive applicability and did not apply to statues erected by independent cities prior to 1997”. It comes in the year following the reignited Black Lives Matter movement that gained international attention after protestors around the world came out during a pandemic to protest the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, CNN reports.
During the worldwide protests, Confederate statues were vandalized or tore down by protestors across the country, which resulted in state and local governments acting to remove even more Confederate statues from public places, The Atlantic reports. Cities in Virginia have since removed Confederate monuments, with Charlottesville taking down a statue of a Confederate soldier from the county courthouse last September.