Virginia judge rules Charlottesville’s Confederate statues are protected and can’t be taken down

A judge in Virginia has ruled that Confederate Statues in Charlottesville are war monuments and cannot be removed.

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Charlottesville’s Confederate statues are protected under state law and can’t be taken down, a Virginia judge has ruled, reports NBC News.

A group of plaintiffs that includes a Confederate heritage group sued after Charlottesville’s City Council voted in 2017 to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, which stands in a city park. An injunction prohibited its removal while the lawsuit played out.

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Attorneys for the city wanted the case dismissed, arguing in part that the state law on memorials, amended in the 1990s, doesn’t apply retroactively to older statues.

The removal of a statue of Lee in August 2017 prompted white nationalists to organize a rally in protest. The night before the main event, they marched through the University of Virginia carrying torches and chanting racial slurs.

The day of the rally descended into chaos, with attendees and counter-protesters brawling in the streets resulting in the death of a woman and injuring many more.

However, judge Richard Moore ruled that the war memorials are protected.

“These statues are monuments and memorials to Lee and Jackson”, both war veterans, the judge wrote. “I find this conclusion inescapable.”

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“While some people obviously see Lee and Jackson as symbols of white supremacy, others see them as brilliant military tacticians or complex leaders in a difficult time … and do not think of white supremacy at all and certainly do not believe in, accept, or believe in such. In either event, the statues to them under the undisputed facts of this case still are monuments and memorials to them, as veterans of the Civil War,” Moore wrote.

Former City Councilor Bob Fenwick, a defendant in the lawsuit, told WCAV-TV that the council still has grounds to have the statues removed.

“The important part is, does the council have legislative immunity, sort of like how a judge has judicial immunity so that the conclusions and the decisions that we make as councilors are final,” Fenwick said. “It was a lawful act that we did.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.