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Friday, September 13, 2019
Charlottesville judge rules Confederate statues will stay. (WTOP, NBC29)
Charlottesville judge rules Confederate statues will stay
A judge in Charlottesville, Virginia has ruled the controversial statues to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson must stay.
More than two years after the Feb. 2017 vote by the Charlottesville City Council to remove the statue of Lee, which prompted a lawsuit against the city and was the impetus for what eventually became a deadly white nationalist rally, Circuit Court Judge Richard Moore ruled the memorials can’t be touched.
“Even though the city wants to remove the statues, the judge said it can’t,” said reporter Hawes Spencer, who was in the courtroom during Wednesday’s first day of the civil trial.
Virginia law bans the removal or movement of war memorials erected in a locality.
“The judge’s opinion was not about the propriety or the goodness of having the statues in the downtown area,” Spencer said. “The judge’s opinion was simply about the fact that Virginia law makes it illegal to move them or encroach upon them.”
Spencer said the judge said the statute preserving war memorials has been amended numerous times over the years, “and that the iteration of it now existing is more about historical preservation than anything else.”
In its defense, the city had argued preventing the removal of the statues violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment by sending a racist message to people of color.
The judge’s ruling “really took the rug out from under the city,” said Spencer.
Spencer said Moore explained his decision: “He said whatever the original intent of the memorial, and we can’t really get into the heads of those who put these monuments to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson up, today they exist as war memorials, and they are protected under Virginia law.”
Plaintiff Virginia Amiss, now 94, recounted walking past the statues on her way to school, and said she was “horrified” by the council vote to remove them.
Another plaintiff, Jock Yellott, got emotional during his testimony.
“I’m tearing up because it infuriates me that people would slander General Lee,” said Yellott.
Thursday’s proceedings will focus on damages, Spencer said. Each of the plaintiffs is seeking $500 in compensatory damages.
“The plaintiffs are going to try to show that people who couldn’t see the statues when they were shrouded in black tarps were harmed,” said Spencer.
Additionally, the plaintiffs’ attorneys are asking for more than $600,000 in fees.
Charlottesville Judge Says Confederate Statues Don't Have Discriminatory Message
Judge Richard Moore says the 1904 state statute was amended several times, covers all wars, and statues don’t have a discriminatory message.
Wednesday, September 11th 2019, 11:58 AM EDT
Wednesday, September 11th 2019, 4:20 PM EDT
Edited by John Early
Reported by Henry Graff
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A Charlottesville judge is denying an equal protection claim from city attorneys over Confederate statues. Judge Richard Moore said Wednesday, September 11, that the 1904 state statute was amended several times, covers all wars, and statues don’t have a discriminatory message.
"People give the statues messages," said Moore to the attorneys. "They speak of history, one we might not like."
Moore's comments come as the trial over the city's plans to move two confederate statues finally got underway. The trial in Charlottesville Circuit Court is scheduled to take up to three days.
Judge Moore has already stated that the statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson are war memorials, and thus cannot be moved due to state code.
The defense’s equal protection claim was the city’s final attempt to get the judge to dismiss the case.
In 2017, Charlottesville City Council voted to remove both statues from their public parks. Initially, councilors were divided over the proposal to move the Lee statue. They later voted unanimously to the proposal, as well as to move the Jackson statue, citing events related to white nationalists in Charlottesville that year.
Two groups - the Monument Fund, Inc. and the Virginia Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. – and 11 individuals - Frederick W. Payne, John Bosley Yellott Jr., Edward D. Tayloe II, Betty Jane Franklin Phillips, Edward Bergen Fry, Virginia C. Amiss, Stefanie Marshall, Charles L. Weber Jr., Lloyd Thomas Smith Jr., Anthony M. Griffin, and Britton Franklin Earnest Sr. – first filed their lawsuit on March 20, 2017.
Plaintiffs are now asking Judge Moore to award them $500 each, as well as $604,000 in attorney fees.
Wednesday, the court heard testimony from several of the plaintiffs. They all expressed shock and anger over City Council’s actions. The executive director of the Monument Fund, John Yellott, started crying over his frustrations.
“I was appalled that our City Council would just attempt to exercise what I would consider raw political power in just defiance of the law. I mean, to me the law was so clear," said Charles Weber, plaintiff and spokesperson for plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs have agreed to donate their $500 to The Monument Fund, which also promised the plaintiffs that they would not be charged attorney fees.