A Charlottesville, Virginia judge has issued a permanent injunction preventing removal of the Confederate statues at the center of deadly 2017 protests.
In 2017, the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove statues of both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, which prompted a lawsuit by citizens saying that to do so was in violation of a state law barring the removal of war memorials. White nationalists rallied around the Lee statue that August to protest the city’s decision. The protest resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a counter-protester run down by a white nationalist who drove his car into a crowd.
After the protests, Charlottesville’s City Council covered the monuments in black shrouds, but in February 2018, Judge Richard E. Moore ordered the shrouds removed. On September 13, Moore also ruled that the preservation law applied to the Lee and Jackson statues, forcing the city to keep them indefinitely. He justified his decision with some words that speak volumes about the logic required to advocate preserving statues that inspire white nationalists to kill people:
“In his latest ruling, Moore cited the intent of the preservation law, saying, ‘I don’t think I can infer that a historical preservation statute was intended to be racist,’ he said. ‘Certainly, [racism] was on their minds, but we should not judge the current law by that intent.’”
Moore’s explanation—that he does not believe the law intended to be racist and even if the lawmakers were thinking racist thoughts, he can’t judge them based on those thoughts, only his guesses at their intentions—is an excellent example of the kind of Civil War apologia that got us these statues in the first place. His next ruling will probably be to festoon the statues with banners that read “It was about states’ rights.”