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VA High Court Sides With Charlottesville in Confederate Monuments Case

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The Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville's Market Street Park. (Roberto Roldan/VPM News)

The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the city of Charlottesville in the fight over its Confederate monuments. Justices disagreed with a Charlottesville Circuit Court decision that kept the Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson statues standing.

The Charlottesville City Council approved resolutions in 2017 to remove the two monuments and renovate the parks where they’re located. A group of individuals and pro-monument organizations, including the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, filed a suit to stop the city from taking them down. 

They argued a law the General Assembly passed in 1997 banning the removal of war memorials applied to the statues retroactively. 

Justices on the state Supreme Court, however, determined the law was not a blanket prohibition and should not be applied to memorials that cities erected before that law was passed. 

Attorney General Mark Herring issued a statement Thursday noting the Supreme Court opinion affirmed his own. 

“I have worked hard to help remove poisonous Confederate propaganda from our publicly-owned spaces, because I believe it glorifies a false history and sends a dangerous and divisive message about who and what we value,” Herring said. “This work will continue, and I look forward to making our case for the removal of the state-owned Robert E. Lee statue before the Supreme Court of Virginia this summer.”

The General Assembly approved a law in 2020 that allows localities to remove war memorials. Many monuments across the state have already been removed.