Charlottesville City Council, Virginia has voted to move the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee out of downtown , that has stood in a city park for nearly 100 years. After months of contentious debate — and a meeting repeatedly disrupted by attendees — the City Council voted 3 to 2 to remove the statue. After the vote, city leaders also vowed to erase Lee’s name from the park. City staff now has 60 days to develop a plan to remove the statue, and recommend where to put it.
The city councilman who changed his mind, Bob Fenwick, said voted in favor of removal after he determined the statue detracted from the park because it caused pain for “a strong, patient minority.” He brushed aside concerns that the monument’s removal was an affront to the city’s Civil War history.
“Just because we disagree on this issue doesn’t mean anyone who disagrees with me is my enemy,” he said. “The only way for us to move forward is for us to love each other, understand each other, and that we have to do this together.”
The city said it would cost around $300,000 to remove the long-standing memorial to the famed Confederate General.
Wayne Wingfield says he wanted to get another look at the monument to the general before it goes away.
“It was put here in 1924, so why do you want to take it away now?” Wingfield asked. He added, “It’s part of history. It’s not hurting nothing sitting there”
Councilors unanimously decided to spend up to $1 million over the next year to redesign Lee Park and Jackson Park in Court Square. As a result, Lee Park will be renamed and a new memorial to Charlottesville’s enslaved people will be installed.
“Please do not remove or transform our statues. They add culture and history to Charlottesville,” said Teresa Lam at Monday night’s meeting.
“Removing them would be a weak solution that evades the more challenging question of how to learn from them,” said Malcolm Bell to the councilors.
“Just because we disagree on certain things, it doesn’t mean that we’re enemies. And in fact, in order for us to really be able to move forward, we have to deal with the very difficult conversations that we’re having now,” Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy said
Whitewashing Confederate history is an ingoing effort for cities throughout those areas where civil war battles were waged 150 years ago. Recently a battle was waged in New Orleans to remove all the city’s many civil war monuments.
A nationwide backlash against Confederate symbols exploded in 2015 in the months after a white gunman motivated by animosity toward African Americans, massacred nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. Some major retailers banned related merchandise as lawmakers in states across the country called for flags to be taken down and school names to be changed.
Charlottesville isn’t the first Virginia municipality to pursue such a change — and one recent attempt will offer them little encouragement. In September, the Alexandria City Council voted unanimously to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway and ask the Virginia General Assembly for permission to move a renowned Confederate statue.
Alexandria’s city attorney has said that moving the 1889 statue may require the state law to be changed.