New Measure Seeks to Stop Removal of Tarps Over Charlottesville Statues
Charlottesville is taking new steps to try to prevent people from removing tarps over the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville is taking new steps to try to prevent people from removing tarps over two statues.
"Removing the tarps will not be tolerated," said Charlottesville City Councilor Kristin Szakos.
“It is frustrating. Down and up, down and up,” Charlottesville City Council Bob Fenwick said.
Orange, plastic fencing was placed around the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Johnathan "Stonewall" Jackson Tuesday, September 19.
“It just looks more like a construction zone now,” said resident Madison Smith.
Crews also added "City Personnel Only No Trespassing" and "No Trespassing" signs to the orange fences.
“We're really determined that we're going to figure out a way to make it very, very clear that it is not OK to take the tarps off these statues. It's not safe. It's a public safety issue. And we need to make sure our laws are enforced,” Szakos said.
People have repeatedly removed the tarps covering the statues. Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Warner D. "Dave" Chapman said taking the tarps down is not a crime, as long as they are not damaged or stolen.
“The commonwealth's attorney's decision not to prosecute for vandalism when people were taking the tarps off made it really difficult,” said Szakos.
Smith said she doubts the flimsy fence and criminal trespassing threat will stop people who want the statues seen again.
Self-described white activist Jason Kessler, along with several others, took down the tarps Monday, September 18. Crews later placed tarps back over the two statues.
Kessler organized the Unite the Right rally that was held in Emancipation Park on Saturday, August 12. The event drew supporters and members of the “alt-right”, neo-Nazi, white nationalists and or supremacists.
The statues were originally covered up after City Council voted unanimously on August 21 to place "shrouds" as a way for Charlottesville to mourn the loss of Heather Heyer and Virginia State Police Lieutenant Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates. All three deaths are connected to Kessler’s event.
According to a city official, each 40’ by 60’ tarp costs $375.95. Charlottesville has so far ordered 12 tarps, totaling around $5,400.
In response to questions over the costs for workers to put up the tarps, officials said in an email to NBC29:
"Costs for staff time to reinstall the tarps will vary wildly as some of it has been done on overtime over the weekend, some done during regular hours. In some cases we had six or seven staff performing the work; on others (like the first couple of times), we had twice that many assisting. Figure $25 per hour per staff member and a minimum of two hours for each installation."
“To my mind, there's damages there because the city taxpayer has to go back and put that up. It's real money,” said Fenwick.
Officers with the Charlottesville Police Department told NBC29 that anyone who stays in either Emancipation or Justice park past 11 p.m. will be arrested for trespassing.
The court battle over the future of the two statues is expected to be taken up by a Charlottesville judge on October 4.