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Confederate Statues in Charlottesville Removed after Years-Long Legal Fight

A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is removed in Charlottesville, Va., July 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The city of Charlottesville, Va. removed Confederate statues of General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on Saturday, more than five years after the first effort to remove the Lee statue.

Crowds gathered in viewing areas to watch as cranes lifted the statues from their plinth blocks on Saturday morning.

Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker addressed the crowd that gathered, calling the removal “one small step forward” in an effort to dismantle white supremacy, according to VPM reporter Ben Paviour.

The statues’ removal comes after the Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution on June 7 authorizing the city manager to remove the monuments for placement in storage. Only the statues were removed on Saturday; the stone bases will be left in place temporarily and removed at a later date.

Plans to remove the Lee statue were first proposed in 2016, leading white supremacists and other extremist groups to use the monument as a focal point for events such as the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally.

While the city council originally voted to remove the monuments in 2017, lawsuits by the statues’ supporters had kept the city from doing so. In April, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that found that state law protected the monuments.

The city council has the sole authority to determine the final disposition of the statues, according to a news release from city officials. 

The city has reached out to museums, government branches, and the military hoping to find a new home for the statues. The city has reportedly received ten responses so far: six from out of state and four from in-state.

While the responses are under review, both statues will be stored in a secure location on city property.

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