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City council votes to sell statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville

Statue of Robert E. Lee at Lee Park (Photo: City of Charlottesville)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WSET) -- Charlottesville City Council has decided how it wants to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. lee from its downtown park.

At its city council meeting Monday night, council members decided to sell the statue 3-2, unless it is not sold then the council will consider donating it.

Essentially, the statue will go up for bid.

Before they made that decision, they heard from people in the audience on what citizens wanted for the future of the statue.

Council voted 3-2 earlier this year for its removal.

Councilor Wes Bellamy called for the removal of the statue in March 2016, citing residents who feel it is culturally offensive and a symbol of white supremacy.

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.

The Council was presented with two options at their meeting in February; 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.

That motion required city management staff to provide recommendations on how the statue could be moved.

A lawsuit was filed in March against Charlottesville and its City Council in order to prevent the removal of the statue.

The plaintiffs argue that the city violated a state law that protects war memorials and violated the terms of the deed in which donor Paul Goodloe McIntire granted the memorial to the city.

A community panel last fall suggested that the statue be moved from Lee Park to McIntire Park.

The council is also voted on whether to rename both the Lee and Jackson parks.

Supporters of the removal are cautiously optimistic moving forward.

"This isn't over yet, this is a process that is ongoing," said Jalene Schmidt. "And I'm glad that council has moved ahead to pursue the option of, you know, taking bids from someone who would take care of the statue in a way that frames it historically, artistically, educationally."

Other are glad that the decision is moving forward since the issue has been on the table for 14 months.

"I'm glad that we're still moving the process along," said the chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission. "I'm upset that, well, bothered rather that it's still moving at somewhat of a horse and buggy pace. While other communities around the country, they're jet speed."

Next, council will see if any bidders come forward.

Both sides agree the statue should be treated with integrity.

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