If ‘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…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) The Confederate statues in Charlottesville, Va., that led to a fatal 2017 clash between extremist ideologues cannot be removed by city officials, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Not only did the merits of the case fail to support further deliberation on their removal, but in fact, the opposite would be true, said Judge Richard Moore.
The law dictates that the court would have to actively intervene to block any removal efforts by the city, he said.
“[I]f 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 [C]ivil [W]ar, I would have to set such verdict aside as unreasonable,” Moore wrote in his ruling.
While Moore’s decision marks a small victory for historic preservationists and free-speech advocates, it is—like the bloody conflict it commemorates—a Pyrrhic one that has produced heavy casualties along the way, resulting in a largely lose–lose scenario.
Led by Wes Bellamy—a radical black activist, disgraced ex-school teacher and vice mayor of Charlottesville—the far-left City Council passed a controversial resolution to remove the statues and rename the downtown parks honoring the two generals.
Protests organized by Jason Kessler—a former Obama supporter turned right-wing agitator—resulted in violence between neo-Nazi groups and Antifa counter-protesters, temporarily turning the idyllic former hometown of Thomas Jefferson into a horrific hellscape in August 2017.
During the daylong melee, local protester Heather Heyer, 32, was killed as Ohio resident James Fields, 21, plowed into a crowd of bystanders, also injuring 19 others.
Fields was found guilty of murder in December.
Two Virginia State Police—Lt. Jay Cullen and Trooper–pilot Berke Bates—also died after their helicopter crashed while they were monitoring the protests.
Moore’s verdict in support of the Confederate statues may actually have the result of putting them into even greater limbo.
For more than two years, an injunction has prevented their removal—although city officials attempted for a time to ameliorate their sudden, spontaneous affront to public sensibilities by covering them in black tarps.
Now, the weight of law seems unlikely to placate those who have long pushed for the removal effort.
In the state’s southern neighbor, North Carolina, unruly mobs have forcibly taken down statues under similar circumstances.
The felling of Confederate monuments in Durham and Chapel Hill—two college towns, like Charlottesville—resulted in minor admonitions and a few nominal jail sentences, but the social-justice-seeking scofflaws ultimately succeeded in their removal efforts.
While the Charlottesville statues are considerably heavier—with both of the Virginian leaders mounted on their horses—and unlikely to be easily toppled, vandalism is all but guaranteed.
The statues also face a major challenge from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who may have a stronger hand than local officials in forcing their removal.
After a February scandal revealed Northam’s past penchant for dressing in blackface, with a picture from his medical school yearbook that depicted blatantly racist images, the Democrat, who ran as a moderate, clung to his political life by promising a hard left turn.
Black activists—again led by Bellamy—agreed to give him a pass only on condition that he acquiesced to a radical agenda, among which removal of the state’s Confederate monuments figured prominently.
President Donald Trump has defended the statues and condemned their removal efforts. He recently reaffirmed that his response to the Charlottesville violence was perfect, while also calling Lee a “great general.”
…can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
Trump’s initial reaction was to condemn racism of all types and blame the violence on radicals of both the Right and Left fringes.
However, partisan opponents have sought repeatedly to distort the president’s words and translate his defense of the historical figures into a racist dogwhistle.
Whatever fate lies in store for the statues, they are sure to figure into both the upcoming Virginia state legislative elections and next year’s presidential race.