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Charlottesville City Council votes to remove Lee statue

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WSET) -- The Charlottesville City Council voted 3-2 Monday night to remove a Robert E. Lee statue out of Lee Park.

Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy, and Councillors Kristin Szakos and Bob Fenwick, voted in favor of removing the statue from downtown Charlottesville while Mayor Mike Signer and Councilor Kathy Galvin voted against.

The Council was presented with two options; remove the statue from the park and relocate it or contextualize the monument with its historical background and use it as a forum for discussion.

The motion requires city management staff to provide recommendations on how the statue can be moved within the next 60 days.

Over a hundred Charlottesville community members sat in on the meeting to convey their positions about the location of the statue, filling the meeting room and outside hallway, according to the Cavalier Daily.

One speaker argued that the statues of Civil War generals promote and perpetuate a false narrative of a lost cause and blur the memory of the suffering of the enslaved majority of Charlottesville..

“My concern is the empathy gap that I perceive between the enthusiasm for welcoming current international refugees while the plight of previous generations of African-American refugees who fled our city receives much less fanfare,” said Religious Studies Assoc. Prof. Jalane Schmidt.

Those who spoke in support of keeping the statue pointed toward maintaining the art of the statue as well as transforming its historical context and teaching all sides of history.

“Removing [the statues] would be a weak solution that uncourageously [sic] evades the more challenging question of how to learn from them and their original public settings,” former University Art History Prof. Malcolm Bell said. “By leaving them where they are we would be called upon to tell their story without resorting to the false narratives of the past.”

Last March, Councilor Wes Bellamy called for the statue of Lee to be removed, citing members of the community who feel it is culturally offensive and a symbol of white supremacy.

Although the Council was divided 3-2 in their decision to remove the statue, they voted unanimously in favor of renaming Lee Park.

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

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