The city of Charlottesville, Virginia, is allowed to remove two statues of Confederate generals, including one of Robert E. Lee, the state’s highest court ruled Thursday.
Virginia’s Supreme Court overturned a Circuit Court decision in favor of residents who sued to stop the city from removing the Lee statue and another monument to Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson after the city council approved resolutions to remove the statues in February 2017.
In September 2019, Circuit Judge Richard Moore ruled a Virginia state law protecting memorials prohibited the city’s plans to remove the statues.
The law cited at the time is the Code of Virginia “Memorials for War Veterans,” Breitbart News reported.
The rule states:
It shall be unlawful for the authorities of the locality, or any other person or persons, to disturb or interfere with any monuments or memorials so erected, or to prevent its citizens from taking proper measures and exercising proper means for the protection, preservation and care of same.
However, State Supreme Court Justice Bernard Goodwyn said in the Thursday decision the statues were erected before a law was passed regulating the “disturbance of or interference with” war memorials or monuments.
Goodwyn’s opinion read in part:
In the present case, the Statues 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. The Lee Statue and the Jackson Statue were not erected pursuant to Code § 15.2-1812 and so, the prohibitions against disturbing or interfering with monuments or memorials erected pursuant to Code § 15.2-1812 do not apply to the Statues.
“In other words, Code § 15.2-1812 did not provide the authority for the City to erect the Statues, and it does not prohibit the City from disturbing or interfering with them,” the document concluded.
According to the Breitbart News report from 2019, the statues became the focus of protests that led to a riot in August 2017, “which saw forces of several white nationalist groups clashing with domestic terror outfit Antifa.”
The case is City of Charlottesville v. Payne, No. 200790 in the Virginia Supreme Court.