Judge rules that Robert E. Lee statue at center of deadly Charlottesville rally must stay

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (KETK/WTVO) – A Virginia judge has blocked the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee that sparked a deadly protest back in 2017.

Judge Richard Moore ruled that any attempt to remove it would violate a state law protecting war memorials, according to a report from USA Today. The ruling ends a lawsuit filed in 2017 opposing the removal after the city council voted to take down the statue saying it sent a racist message.

The vote prompted a Unite the Right rally to save the statue. Far right protest groups marched to the statue on August 11th.

The rally drew both counter-protesters and members of several white nationalist groups. The next day, self-identified white supremacist James Fields, Jr. deliberately drove a car into counter-protesters, killing one woman.

In his initial remarks about the rally, President Trump condemned “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides,” and while he later condemned neo-Nazis and white nationalists explicitly, in his first statement he referred to “very fine people on both sides” of the protests.

Moore issued a permanent injunction, which protects the statue from any future removal. It also applied to another Confederate statue of General Stonewall Jackson.

In his ruling, Moore said that the law itself does not have any discriminatory intent.

“I don’t think I can infer that a historical preservation statute was intended to be racist. Certainly, (racism) was on their minds, but we should not judge the current law by that intent,” Moore said.

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