A Virginia judge ruled that the city of Charlottesville has fifteen days to remove the black tarps that have been used to hide the Confederates statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson from view ever since a woman died during a white nationalist rally last August.
The deadly “Unite the Right” rally was organized after the city revealed its plans to remove the two statues of the Civil War generals and redesign the parks in which they were installed. Hundreds of white supremacists waving nationalist banners and chanting slogans marched toward Robert E. Lee Park in protest, and violent clashes between protesters and counterprotesters erupted. Nineteen people were injured and thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer lost her life after a man drove his car into a crowd of demonstrators. After the tragedy, the city unanimously voted to cover the statues as a symbol of mourning.
Judge Richard E. Moore had previously blocked attempts to force the city to remove the tarps, but he finally ruled in favor of uncovering them after Charlottesville officials recently tried to claim that the plan had always been to shield the monuments from view for one year. Moore criticized the officials for their lack of transparency and maintained that visitors to the city and historians should be allowed to view the statues.
The rally has since prompted cities across the United States to review their public monuments and sparked a fierce debate about whether statues should stay or go. In response to the controversy, New York City formed a commission to reevaluate the city’s public works, but ultimately decided that several contested statues would remain. Markers will eventually be added to them in order to provide historical context.