Lee Park Controversy: Keep the Statue

by Natalia Marshall

City council Vice Mayor, Wes Bellamy, is calling for the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue and the renaming of Lee Park in downtown charlottesville.

“The statue should be removed because it’s a symbol of racism, intolerance and white supremacy,” said John Mason, associate chair of the History departmen, at the University of Virginia.

A petition was started by 15 year old Charlottesville High School student, Zyhana Bryant, who feels oppressed and offended by an inanimate object. Her goal is to make the park more “welcoming.”

The Lee statue and Lee Park was donated to the City of Charlottesville by Paul Goodloe McIntire, a local philanthropist. He dedicated the park and the statue in honor of his parents. Mr. McIntire donated tirelessly to the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

Some of his contributions are: a school of commerce and economics, which today is the McIntire School of Commerce. The endowment of the chair of Fine Arts, and the McIntire Amphitheatre. He also financed the George Rogers Clark Sculpture, Thomas Jonathan Jackson Sculpture, Robert Edward Lee Sculpture, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark Sculpture. The land that the Robert E. Lee statue sits on and the Stonewall Jackson statue stands on was also donated to the city by McIntire, the land that McIntire park and Washington Park sit on were donated by McIntire.

Robert E. Lee was an honorable and accomplished man. His command of the Army of Northern Virginia was the watershed event of his life, but he was also: a West Point graduate; a skilled engineer; a veteran of the Mexican-American War; a West Point Superintendent; and President of Washington & Lee University. He is a veteran, and veterans should be honored. He became a symbol of honor and respect in the South. The statue has been in Lee park since 1924, for 92 years.

But, because it’s making individuals uncomfortable, it may be taken down and the Park should be re-named. Charlottesville is full of history, and whether it’s good or bad, it needs to remain for future generations. History shouldn’t be hidden from the crowd. It has already happened and people should be informed about it and move on.

Charlottesville City council is establishing a Blue Ribbon Commission to do more research and to give the public more opportunity to give their opinion. The Save The Robert E. Lee statue petition has over 7,600 signatures, while the petition that Ms. Bryant started has a little over 600 signatures. Each poll that has been surveyed by the Daily Progress has a majority of individuals wanting to keep the statue in place. The current Virginia Law states:

§ 15.2-1812 Memorials for war veterans.
A locality may, within the geographical limits of the locality, authorize and permit the erection of monuments or memorials for any war or conflict, or for any engagement of such war or conflict, to include the following monuments or memorials: Algonquin (1622), French and Indian (1754-1763), Revolutionary (1775-1783), War of 1812 (1812-1815), Mexican (1846-1848), Confederate or Union monuments or memorials of the War Between the States (1861-1865), Spanish-American (1898), World War I (1917-1918), World War II (1941-1945), Korean (1950-1953), Vietnam (1965-1973), Operation Desert Shield-Desert Storm (1990-1991), Global War on Terrorism (2000-), Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003 -). If such are erected, it shall be unlawful for the authorities of the locality, or any other person or persons, to disturb or interfere with any monuments or memorials so erected, or to prevent its citizens from taking proper measures and exercising proper means for the protection, preservation and care of same. For purposes of this section, “disturb or interfere with” includes removal of, damaging or defacing monuments or memorials, or, in the case of the War Between the States, the placement of Union markings or monuments on previously designated Confederate memorials or the placement of Confederate markings or monuments on previously designated Union memorials.

The governing body may appropriate a sufficient sum of money out of its funds to complete or aid in the erection of monuments or memorials to the veterans of such wars. The governing body may also make a special levy to raise the money necessary for the erection or completion of any such monuments or memorials, or to supplement the funds already raised or that may be raised by private persons, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion or other organizations. It may also appropriate, out of any funds of such locality, a sufficient sum of money to permanently care for, protect and preserve such monuments or memorials and may expend the same thereafter as other funds are expended.

Based on current Virginia Law, I don’t believe City Council has the authority to remove the statue, and it seems they are wasting tax- payer money on pursuing the issue. The Blue Ribbon Commission will be chosen by an application process, and the applications are due May 27th. The City Council will choose 6 at large members and 3 members from these three organizations: PLACE, (Placemaking, Livability and Community Engagement task force); the Human Rights Commission; and the Historic Resources Committee.

People in the public sit here and say that the statue stands for racism but it isn’t true. People need to honestly do their research and find out what all is behind the statue. Yes, there will be things that offend people but if we listened to everything that people were offended by there wouldn’t be anything left in Charlottesville.  There are many statues that are in Charlottesville that have a history behind them. If anything the statues get people to do their background research about it and become more informed about it.

Categories: Editorials, Uncategorized

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