The statues of Confederate General Robert E Lee and Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were removed in Charlottesville, Virginia, several years after the August 2017 white nationalist gathering Unite The Right rally, which was held in Charlottesville. Many remember during that rally a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was run down and murdered by James Fields, a self-proclaimed white nationalist who ran Heyer down with his vehicle. Fields was later sentenced to life in prison for Heather’s murder in 2019.
The removal of the statues had been held up for quite some time due to a lengthy court battle brought on by conservatives fighting to keep the statues where they are. Standing since unveiled on May 21, 1924, the General Robert E Lee statue measures approximately 26 feet high, 12 feet long, and 8 feet wide at the bottom of the base and was located in Market Street Park. The General Jackson statue was erected a few years before on October 19, 1921, and was located in Court Square Park. The court battle was clearly over as the statues were removed from their base by a large crane and the help from several crews. Present at the removals were Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker and Zyahna Bryant, Bryant being the high school student who, in 2016, started the push to remove the Confederate symbols. Bryant spoke to the crowd saying she hopes this victory empowers young people to speak up on issues that matter to them and to take that action to foster change in their own cities. Bryant was also quoted as saying “There is no platform for white supremacy, racism or hate.”
While the Confederate statues were in the process of being taken down, another statue was marked for removal and was the topic of an emergency council meeting, which held a vote with a mere 20-minute notice. The Lewis & Clark and Sacagawea statue was voted to be removed as well on the order of the city council. Standing since the year 1919 in Charlottesville, a descendant of Sacagawea, Rose Ann Abrahamson, said she felt her depiction in the statue of a native girl bent down by the explorers was demeaning and an insult to her legacy. Abrahamson was quoted saying “I feel that it needs to be melted down and obliterated, it’s very offensive.” Crews went on to remove the Lewis & Clark and Sacagawea statue after they had completed the removal of the Confederate statues, hauling the crane and other equipment over to where it stood, and completed the 3rd removal of the day. The future of the statues is questionable, but for now, they will remain on city property until the city council decides their fate.