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Charlottesville’s Confederate statues protected by state as ‘war memorials’ - court ruling

Charlottesville’s Confederate statues protected by state as ‘war memorials’ - court ruling
Monuments to Confederate generals like the ones that sparked protests in Charlottesville, Virginia are memorials to war veterans and as such are protected by state law and cannot be removed, a court has ruled.

For decades there have been calls throughout the US for removal of Confederate monuments, which some argue glorify the cause of white supremacy by honoring those who defended the institution of slavery during the American Civil War. Efforts to erase the controversial memorials in Charlottesville have intensified since hundreds of alleged white supremacists descended on the city in August 2017 to defend the Southern symbols from destruction, claiming they are part of the cultural heritage of the United States.

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But despite calls to get rid of two downtown statues of General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas Johnathan “Stonewall” Jackson, a Charlottesville judge ruled that Confederate memorials cannot be removed, as they are protected by the state.

“These statues are monuments and memorials to Lee and Jackson,” Judge Richard Moore ruled Monday after examining a Monument Fund lawsuit filed in February 2017 to stop the Charlottesville City Council from removing the two statues. The defendants in the case argued that the statues were not war memorials, and therefore cannot be protected under Virginia law.

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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 (much like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, William Tecumseh Sherman, or even Oliver Cromwell or Dietrich Bonhoeffer), and do not think of white supremacy at all and certainly do not believe in, accept, or agree with such,” Moore wrote. “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’s interpretation of American heritage symbols aligns with Trump’s take on their historic significance. “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump said following the riots in Charlottesville.

“Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!” the US president once wondered.

Many in the mainstream media cast Trump’s 2017 words characterizing the defenders of the statues as ‘fine people’ as evidence of his support for white supremacists. The heated debates over his rhetoric resurfaced in the 2020 election cycle after former Vice President Joe Biden challenged Trump in his campaign video.

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