Charlottesville Museum is melting down a monument raised as a memorial to Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The museum can implement this action because a Virginia judge gave permission. In this way, the judge rejected the lawsuit that fought for the preservation of the statue. The statue is also the place where the “Unite the Right” protest took place – in 2017 when counter-protester Heather Heyer died.
Charlottesville Museum to Use Melted Material for New Artwork
Charlottesville’s Jefferson School African American Heritage Center (JSAAHC) won a case for melting down almost a hundred years old monument. Also, the center wanted to use the melted material for new public creations. When the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation and the Ratcliffe Foundation found out about this, they wanted to stop the process. So, they filed a suit against it.
These two organizations submitted a request for control of the monument, but it got rejected. The state excluded the Ratcliffe Foundation from the process, no longer has a valid business standing as of 2015. Then, just recently, a district court justice declared that the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation’s central arguments were unfounded.
Why? The organization filed the request to control the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee too late. But the judge did not completely rule out the possibility of the organisation bringing a lawsuit against Charlottesville, for allegedly infringing Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.
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The Lawsuit as a Disctraction?
“The lawsuit always felt like an attempt to create a distraction from the overall project”, Andrea Douglas, executive director of the JSAAHC. “Our goal really is to engage in a conversation about public space—and how one makes those public spaces in the most democratic way possible”. American sculptor Henry Shrady created the monument in 1917. Then, Italian artist continued the process.
This happened when Shrady died in 1922, and he managed to complete it two years later. The city council, which consists of five members, voted by a majority of three in favor of removing this monument from public spaces. The judgement was then contested in court by numerous litigants, including the ancestors of the statue’s donor, who said that removing the item infringed on a state statute that safeguards veterans’ memorials.
In 2019, a judge sided with the plaintiffs and issued a permanent injunction preventing the removal of the memorial. That ruling was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court in April of 2021, and the injunction was lifted. The Lee monument was finally taken down on July 10, 2021.