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City Council passes resolution to sell Robert E. Lee statue

Process for renaming Lee, Jackson parks approved

<p>Statue of Robert E. Lee in Lee Park, located near the Charlottesville Downtown Mall.</p>

Statue of Robert E. Lee in Lee Park, located near the Charlottesville Downtown Mall.

By a 3-2 vote, the Charlottesville City Council approved a resolution Monday night that will allow the Robert E. Lee statue located in Lee Park to be sold.

The Charlottesville City Council passed two separate resolutions proposed by Councilor Kristin Szakos concerning proposed plans to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from Lee Park and to rename the park.

The first resolution authorized the sale of the Lee statue by a bidding process to be overseen by the city, in which the buyer would be responsible for removal and transportation of the statue.

The resolution passed with a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Mike Signer and Councilor Kathy Galvin opposing it.

The second motion approved a public contest in order to rename Lee Park and Jackson Park with the top five appropriate suggestions chosen by the Parks and Recreation Department to be considered by the Council. It passed unanimously.

The council originally voted 3-2 to remove the statue of Lee Feb. 6 with Signer and Galvin also opposing the statue’s removal.

During the public comment section of the meeting, a number of citizens expressed a variety of opinions on the decisions to remove the statue and rename the parks.

“I commend City Council on its leadership in the decision to remove the Robert E. Lee statue,” local resident Ben Doherty said. “It served as an emblem of white supremacy, has held a wrongful place at the center of the city and we do not have to put up with these monuments of white supremacy.”

In reference Signer’s declaration of Charlottesville as “a capital of resistance” against the Trump administration, Doherty further commented, “we cannot be a capital of resistance and the capital of the Confederacy,” followed by an uproar of applause.

Attendee Henry McHenry lamented what he saw as a lack of cooperation and communication in the Charlottesville community regarding the removal of the Lee statue.

“My concern is that the statue issue hasn't generated any common ground among us, it has been us against them,” McHenry said. “[We need] to produce a community conversation that lets us hear each other … the Council should investigate and produce an ongoing venue for communication among citizens.”

In support of Szako’s proposed resolutions, Councilor Bob Fenwick said arguments against removing the statue were unjustified, referencing a recent lawsuit filed against the Council.

“If courts rule that statue removal is legal, it will be simply removed and the taxpayer will not bear any burden for its removal,” Fenwick said. “The statue removal is not destroying history due to proximity to Albemarle Historical Society … the fight for equality has lost its bearings, a deep discussion of minority rights will affirm that all men and women are created equal.”

Galvin also affirmed that the removal of the statue would not be an immediate outcome of the resolutions.

“It is important that we do not mislead the public that removal of the statue is imminent, as the Council cannot remove the statue until the injunction and litigation have been settled,” Galvin said.

Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy then offered further support for the proposed resolutions.

“We must make amends for what has transpired in our city in the past [and] move forward,” Bellamy said. “The process of naming does not have to be drawn out — we've had a great deal of input and we are ready to execute.”

However, Signer reaffirmed his previous opposition to the removal of the Lee statue in a contentious response to Szakos.

“I oppose statue removal due to its effort to delete and expunge that which offends us,” Signer said.

The lawsuit filed against City Council is currently in the Charlottesville Circuit Court.