Contributed by Charlottesville Anti-Racist Media Liaisons | Photos by Locs Image
(Charlottesville, Va.) — Take ’Em Down Cville, a coalition of racial justice activists who have fought for the removal of Charlottesville’s Confederate monuments, issued the following statement in response to the City of Charlottesville’s announcement of the Saturday, July 10th removal of the Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson statues from the City’s downtown parks:
“We commend the City’s decision to remove the Confederate monuments immediately, even before the decision on where they will ultimately go. People in this community have been calling for their removal for 100 years. As long as they remain standing in our downtown public spaces, they signal that our community tolerated white supremacy and the Lost Cause these generals fought for. This is an important milestone in Charlottesville’s difficult, ongoing work of tearing down the remaining structures of institutional racism that are rife in our community’s systems and practices. Today we recommit ourselves to creating a community that renounces that cause, rejects white supremacy, and values Black lives.”
“After petitioning for this statue to come down over 5 years ago, I still believe that they all must come down. We must not continue to offer platforms and dedicate space to honor white supremacy and the legacies of those who fought to uphold it. This is a crucial first step in the right direction to tell a more historically accurate and complete story of this place and the people who call this place home. The work did not start here and it will not end here. Today I am proud of our community for taking a stand, and I hope that this empowers young people everywhere to make their voices heard on the topics and issues that matter the most.”
— Zyahna Bryant, third-year UVA Sociology major who, as a Charlottesville High School student, wrote the 2016 petition calling for the Confederate statues’ removal
“The statues being moved remind me of what my grandmother always would say to me: ‘If God sees you to it, he will see you through it.’ I remember the tears, the pain, the anguish, the doubt, the fear, and the many who thought that we were wrong… well, I’m glad that we were on the right side of history. Let’s get them out of here.”
— Dr. Wes Bellamy, former Charlottesville City Council member (2014-2017) and community activist
Pressured by local activists, Charlottesville’s City Council voted in 2017 to take down both statues, and set aside funding for their removal, but a lawsuit by members of the Monument Fund and Sons of the Confederacy argued that the move was prohibited by a state law protecting “war memorials”. Local judge Richard Moore agreed, ruling in 2019 that the statues were protected by the law and issuing an injunction to keep them in place.
“We’ve waited for this day for more than four years – for 100 years, really – and it will feel good to see these monuments to racism come down. Of course there’s still a lot of work to do to bring real racial equity, but this is an important step.”
— Kristin Szakos, Charlottesville City Council member (2010-2017), community activist
While the City appealed the ruling, Take ’Em Down Cville members joined with activists from around Virginia to launch the Monumental Justice Campaign, a statewide effort to lobby the Virginia General Assembly to allow localities to remove Confederate monuments. In February 2020, the Campaign celebrated the passage of the new law, which took effect in July 2020.
“These civil war participation trophies have caused irreparable harm to the Charlottesville community. These racist relics have been a magnet for white supremacists and bigots who only see nobility in the failed Confederate project. I am thrilled that these traitor statues will no longer be in our public spaces or supported with public funds.”
— Lisa Woolfork, Associate Professor of English at UVA, co-founder/organizer of Black Lives Matter Charlottesville
Charlottesville, however, was prevented from acting by Judge Moore’s injunction until May 2021, when the Virginia Supreme Court overturned his ruling and vacated the injunction, paving the way for the City to embark on the 60-day process prescribed in the new law.
“This is truly a glorious and monumental moment in history and in the progression of our city and the continuing progress of this nation.”
— Don Gathers, former member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Space, community activist
Take ’Em Down Cville is made up of Charlottesville and Albemarle County citizens who have been fighting for the removal of the community’s Confederate monuments since 2016 and believe that statues honoring the Confederate Lost Cause are really monuments to the cause of white supremacy and have no place in our public spaces. (@TakeEmDownCharlottesville on Facebook; @TakeEmDownCVL on Twitter)
Monumental Justice Virginia is a statewide movement of Virginians who came together in 2019 to lobby the General Assembly to pass a new state law allowing localities to decide what to do with Confederate monuments, and that local communities have the right to make decisions about the Confederate statues in their public spaces. (@monumentaljusticeva on Facebook)