Virginia’s highest court cleared the way Thursday for two Confederate statues in Charlottesville to be removed, one of which was at the center of a deadly 2017 rally attended by hundreds of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
The state Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling in favor of a group of residents who sued to stop the city from taking down statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
This decision is the latest in a series of similar moves nationwide to remove symbols of white supremacy. Last year, 168 such symbols – including placards, building dedications and more than 90 Confederate monuments — were renamed or removed, according to a year-end update to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Whose Heritage?” report, which tracks Confederate symbols across the country.
Charlottesville has particularly been under a national spotlight since 2017 after a “Unite the Right” rally was held in the city that August. White nationalist organizers of the event said they rallied to protect the statue of Lee that has now been authorized to be removed.
Organizers were met with a large group of counterprotesters,and the clash left three dead and dozens injured.One woman was killed at the event after a neo-Nazi rammed his car into counterprotesters. Then-President Donald Trump came under fire for saying there were “fine” people on “both sides” of the protest.
While emblems of the Confederacy are common in the South, and Virginia houses the most Confederate symbols.
In February, state lawmakers passed a bill to remove a statue of former Virginia governor and U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd from the state Capitol grounds. He was considered the architect of the state’s “massive resistance” policy to public school integration.
Activists have long called for the removal of such symbols, but the movement grew stronger fafter George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis last year. Now, Confederate symbols are more closely associated with white supremacy, but many still defend the statues and memorials as Southern heritage.
Nearly 2,100 emblems and dedications to the Confederacy remain, which include more than 700 statues, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s updated report published in February.
Contributing: The Associated Press