The Civil War monument of Robert E. Lee located in Emancipation Park was found defaced Sunday morning with “1619” marked on the statue’s base in black spray paint. The message is in reference to the year enslaved Africans were first brought to North America.
State Judge Richard Moore ruled against removal of the Lee statue Friday, in accordance with Virginia law to protect historic war monuments. Moore issued a permanent injunction to assure the statue is not removed and ruled that damages would not be awarded to local residents who filed the case against the monument.
Sally Hudson, a professor of economics, education and public policy and Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 57th district seat, tweeted a photo of the spray paint Sunday.
“Every day is a new battle in this story here,” Hudson wrote. “Let us take them down.”
In February 2017, Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statue due to its racist implications, but it could not be taken down immediately due to legal conflict. The decision became a central factor in the violent white supremacist Unite the Right rallies of Aug. 11 and 12 that year, which caused the death of Heather Heyer, a peaceful counter-protestor and Charlottesville resident.
In the wake of the rallies, City Council unanimously decided to shroud the statue in a black tarp, but Moore ordered for the tarp to be removed February 2018.
Moore’s decision Friday also protects a statue of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson located in the Charlottesville Historic District which has received opposition within the Charlottesville community.
Tyler Hawn, public information officer for the Charlottesville Police Department, said in a statement from CPD that the incident was documented, though no suspects have been arrested.
“While there are differing opinions on the monuments, the statues are on city-owned property, therefore, vandalizing them can result in criminal charges such as destruction of property,” the statement said.