City Council approves resolution to remove Robert E. Lee Statue

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WCAV) -- On Monday night, the Charlottesville City Council voted 3-2 to move the Robert E. Lee statue out of Lee Park. Following that vote, council voted unanimously to rename Lee Park.

The council chambers were booming with cheers and boos after the votes were final. The chambers were split between people who wanted to keep the statue, and those who wanted it removed. Most of the public comments made at the beginning of the meeting were in favor of keeping the statue in Lee Park.

Mayor Mike Signer and Councilor Kathy Galvin were the two votes opposing the resolution. Before the vote, both said they were uncomfortable with the amount of money this would cost the city, and that the city could face a long legal battle for trying to remove the statue. Signer also said he wanted more research to be done about the statues before making a decision.

Councilor Kristin Szakos says there is another cost to consider, and that too many people in Charlottesville have already paid it.

"I believe it is the most cost-effective way to reduce the harm that has happened over nine decades of veneration," she said.

Councilor Bob Fenwick abstained from voting on this issue the last meeting, saying that the language of the resolution was too broad, and more could be added to it. On Monday, Fenwick voted to remove the statue, and defended his decision by saying that there were other ways Charlottesville could honor their heritage.

"There is not just one way to honor history. Particularly at the expense of our neighbors," he said.

He also said that he wasn't scared of any sort of legal ramifications.

"I'm well aware that there has been a lawsuit threatened. I would welcome one," he said.

The meeting was heavily policed as more than four people were thrown out of council chambers by Charlottesville police officers for interrupting the meeting. Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy said after the meeting that he hopes people on both side of the issue can come together to understand one another.

"Just because we disagree on this issue doesn't mean anyone who disagrees with me is my enemy. The only way for us to move forward is for us to love each other, understand each other, and that we have to do this together," he said.

The city council will discuss at a later date how they financially plan to pay for the removal. The overall cost of the move will be around $300,000, which is less than 1 percent of their annual budget.