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Update: Judge Calls for Tarps Over Charlottesville Statues to be Removed

Posted: Updated: Mar 13, 2018 12:03 PM
Police standing by the covered statue of "Stonewall" Jackson Police standing by the covered statue of "Stonewall" Jackson
Police standing by the covered statue of Robert E. Lee Police standing by the covered statue of Robert E. Lee
Protester outside Charlottesville Circuit Court Protester outside Charlottesville Circuit Court
Ralph Main speaking to the media outside of Charlottesville Circuit Court Ralph Main speaking to the media outside of Charlottesville Circuit Court
Jason Kessler arguing with people against the statues of Lee and Jackson Jason Kessler arguing with people against the statues of Lee and Jackson
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

A judge says tarps covering Charlottesville's statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas Johnathan “Stonewall” Jackson must be removed within 15 days of a court order being filed.

Judge Richard Moore made the ruling during a hearing in Charlottesville Circuit Court Tuesday, February 27. Plaintiff's attorney Ralph Main says the right decision was made: “It'll happen very soon. I can't say it'll happen today or not. Probably not. The order has to been drafted and circulated through the attorneys, then presented to the judge," he explained.

In a statement, the city said it is disappointed by Judge Moore's ruling, but will respect the court's decision.

A spokesperson for the city said there are no plans at this time to appeal Tuesday's ruling.

Moore said that the orange fencing around both statues will remain for the time being. The judge also said tourists, historians, and artists should be able to enjoy the two statues.

"He [Moore] said that it causes irreparable harm for people not to be able to see these statues, and we would say it's the exact opposite. It's these statues being here on a daily basis that cause irreparable harm to this community," said Showing Up for Racial Justice Charlottesville Organizer Ben Doherty.

Some protesters had gathered outside of the courthouse ahead of the hearing, and called for both statues to be removed from Emancipation and Justice parks.

“These statues cause irreparable harm to Charlottesville. The shrouds must stay up until the statues come down. Raise the shrouds, and drop the charges against DeAndre [Harris], Corey [Long], and Donald [Blakney] who were attacked in their own community on August 12,” Doherty said in a statement.

However, others believe the statues are a part of history and should not be covered.

Protesters and Unite the Right Organizer Jason Eric Kessler argued outside court, often screaming profanities at one another. Police officers stood firmly, trying to keep the peace, but many were still upset.

The statues were covered after City Council voted unanimously on August 21, 2017 to place "mourning shrouds" due to the loss of Heather Heyer and Virginia State Police Lieutenant Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates. All three died on August 12, the day of the Unite the Right rally.

Moore's decision on Tuesday is rooted in City Council's placement of the tarps being temporary. The judge set a time table in part because councilors did not set a scheduled date for when the "mourning shrouds" would be taken down.

Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the city on March 20, 2017 as a way to stop City Council's plan to have the Lee statue removed. The lawsuit claimed that councilors had acted beyond their authority and violated a state law that prohibits removing monuments or memorials to war veterans. Councilors later voted to remove the Jackson statue, resulting in the lawsuit being amended to challenge that decision as well.

A handful of police officers could be seen in both parks Tuesday afternoon, following the judge's ruling.

The remainder of the plaintiffs’ lawsuit regarding the possible removal of the statues from the two parks is still ongoing. Judge Moore did take up a motion Tuesday in which he ruled there is enough information now filed to consider if the Lee statue is a war memorial, which is one of the cruxes of this case.

The next hearing in this case is set for April 11.


02/27/2018 Release from the City of Charlottesville:

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - On Tuesday, February 27, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard Moore ruled that the City of Charlottesville must remove the coverings from the statues in Emancipation and Justice Parks.

From the beginning the City Council’s intention for the shrouds was to mourn the loss of life and the severe injuries that members of our community suffered on August 12th. In part, the judge's ruling is based upon his opinion that the shrouds were not temporary in nature.

The City is disappointed by the ruling but will respect the court’s decision. We are looking forward to the process of redesigning our downtown parks to promote a more complete history of our community.


02/27/2018 Statement from Black Lives Matter Charlottesville Organizer Jalane Schmidt:

These statues normalized white supremacist violence by telling a false Lost Cause version of the Civil War that showed no empathy toward enslaved people. Our city’s policies are institutionalized white supremacy that show no empathy to the descendants of the enslaved. Taking down the shrouds further normalizes this callousness.