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Statue Behind Charlottesville Unrest Is Back in the News

Robert E. Lee monument is defaced soon after judge rules it must stay
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2019 9:30 AM CDT
File photo of the Robert E. Lee statue in Market Street Park, formerly Emancipation Park, in Charlottesville, Va. Someone just vandalized the statue.   (Zack Wajsgras/The Daily Progress via AP)

(Newser) – The statue of Robert E. Lee that was at the heart of the deadly unrest in Charlottesville, Va., is once again in the news. NBC29 reports that somebody vandalized the base of the statue, which sits in a local park, by spray-painting "1619" on it. The reference is to the year slavery began in the US. The new vandalism comes a few days after a state judge blocked a slow-moving push to get rid of the monument to the Confederate general. Judge Richard Moore issued a permanent injunction to prevent the statue's removal, saying it must remain there under Virginia's historic preservation statute, reports NPR.

The background to all this: In 2017, Charlottesville's city council voted to remove the Lee statue, a decision that became instantly controversial. Opponents sued to keep it in place, arguing that a state law barred the removal of war memorials. While the legal fight unfolded, white nationalists staged a large protest in the city in August 2017, leading to the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer. The legal fight has continued in the background all this time—at one point, statues of Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson were temporarily covered in tarps—leading to Moore's ruling last week. (Read more Charlottesville, Va. stories.)

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