Charlottesville prepares to take down Confederate statues on Saturday

Updated 4:44 PM EDT, Fri July 9, 2021
A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is seen in Market Street Park on April 1, 2021, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Eze Amos/Getty Images
A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is seen in Market Street Park on April 1, 2021, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
CNN —  

Two bronze statues of Confederate generals will be removed from public property in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, almost four years after the statues were the flashpoint for the violent “Unite the Right” rally that left one person dead and many others injured.

In a news release, the Charlottesville government said the statues of Robert E. Lee in Market Street Park and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in Court Square Park will be taken down on Saturday and placed in storage. The stone bases will be left in place and removed at a later date.

The city said public viewing areas will be set up in both parks for the removals. The exact schedule for removal has not been determined and will be subject to weather.

The city said it is looking for a new home for the statues at a museum, military battlefield or historical society. The city has received 10 expressions of interest – six from out of state and four in Virginia, the news release said.

A statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is seen on April 1, 2021 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Eze Amos/Getty Images
A statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is seen on April 1, 2021 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Charlottesville City Council voted June 7 to remove the the statues following a court battle of more than three years.

The council first voted in February 2017 to remove the statues, a decision that sparked the anger of Virginians with Confederate roots and White nationalist groups.

The “Unite the Right” rallies of August 11-12, 2017, brought thousands of protesters to Charlottesville, many bearing Confederate and neo-Nazi symbolism, to protest the removal of the statues.

One White supremacist killed a counterprotester, Heather Heyer, and injured 19 others when he plowed his car into a crowd. Many more were injured in separate incidents during the weekend rally.

In October 2017, two months after the rally, a circuit court judge ruled against removing the statues from public spaces, saying that they were protected by a state statute that barred the removal of “memorials and monuments to past wars,” court documents show.

But in April 2021, the Supreme Court of Virginia overturned that decision. Both monuments were erected in the 1920s but the state law protecting monuments was enacted in 1997, and “had no retroactive applicability and did not apply to statues erected by independent cities prior to 1997,” the opinion reads.