Virginia Judge Rules: Confederate Statues Are Protected War Monuments
A judge has ruled that Confederate statues are protected by state laws in Virginia, stopping local efforts to remove two monuments in Charlottesville. Circuit Judge Richard Moore made it clear that he would overturn any civil judgment that called for the removal of the statues. He believes it crosses state law so blatantly, that he would even overturn a jury.
The decision declares that the city of Charlotte doesn’t have the legal right to take them down. Moore ruled that two downtown statues depicting Confederate generals are war monuments and therefore are protected by state code.
The decision also addresses the recent phenomenon of city councils, schools, and other governing bodies removing historical markers because they are believed to be racist.
“I believe that defendants have confused or conflated 1) what the statues are with 2) the intentions or motivations of some involved in erecting them, or the impact that they might have on some people and how they might make some people feel,” Moore wrote. “But that does not change what they are.”
“I find this conclusion inescapable,” he also wrote. “It is the very reason the statues have been complained about from the beginning. It does no good pretending they are something other than what they actually are.”
“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.”
The decision concerns a suit filed by The Monument Fund in March 2017. It claimed that the Charlottesville City Council violated a state code section that bans the removal of war memorials when it voted to remove the statue of Lee in 2016. The suit was later amended to also include the Jackson statue.
CBS Charlotte reports:
Moore finds the issue to be so clear-cut that “if the matter went to trial on this issue and a jury were to decide that they are not monuments or memorials to veterans of the civil war, I would have to set such verdict aside as unreasonable…”
The lawsuit was filed after Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statue of Lee in early 2017. City councilors Mike Signer, Kathy Galvin and Wes Bellamy are named individually for their roles in that vote, as are former councilors Bob Fenwick and Kristin Szakos.
While legal analysts have said this ruling could sink the city’s defense, Moore notes that this ruling doesn’t guarantee the plaintiffs will prevail.
He still has several other motions under consideration.
Plaintiffs spokesperson Buddy Weber says plaintiffs are pleased, but also cited the remaining motions as questions that still need to be answered.
In an email, city spokesperson Brian Wheeler says the judge now has to decide whether the city has to pay damages and attorneys fees and whether that question will go to trial in September.
In his ruling, Moore writes that he hopes to rule on remaining motions in the next month.
A hearing in the case is set for Wednesday.
The city councilmen who voted for the removal of the statues could also be liable for damages and legal fees if the court ultimately rules in favor of the plaintiffs.