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Charlottesville Shrouds Its Robert E. Lee And Stonewall Jackson Statues

City workers drape a tarp over the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Wednesday. The city council voted to cover the statues to symbolize the city's mourning of Heather Heyer, who was killed while protesting a white nationalist rally earlier this month.
Steve Helber

The city of Charlottesville has shrouded two of its Confederate monuments in a show of mourning for the woman killed in the violent white nationalist protest there earlier this month.

Workers draped statues of both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on Wednesday after a city council vote earlier this week. The gesture was to memorialize 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car plowed into pedestrians following the Aug. 12 rally. The suspect is reportedly a white nationalist.

Sandy Hausman of member stationtells our Newscast unit that "it took eight men with ropes and poles, a truck and a cherry picker to lift and drop black tarps over" the nearly 30-foot monuments.

Hausman goes on to report that supporters of this decision include the city's vice mayor, Wes Bellamy.

"Some individuals are going to be upset, and that is okay, but progression must be at the forefront of everything we do — creating equity in all of our public spaces. This allows us to move one step further in the right direction," Bellamy told Hausman in an interview.

Charlottesville City Council voted unanimously to cover the statues early Tuesday. At the same meeting, however, residents and activists expressed anger, turning it into an hours-long town hall over the city's handling of the rally.

Charlottesville's Daily Progressdescribed the meeting as "a total takeover" with audience members demanding Mayor Mike Signer's removal:

"A woman said her daughter was supposed to start her fourth year at the University of Virginia this week. She won't be attending the first day of class because of her injuries, the mother said.

"Another man said he's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He said he can still see the bodies that went flying after the car struck the crowd several hours after the Unite the Right rally was shut down because of rampant street-fighting outside Emancipation Park, the location where white nationalists and white supremacists gathered on Aug. 12 for their Unite the Right rally."

The paper also reported that three people at the meeting face misdemeanor charges and that "the entire City Council, the city attorney, the city manager and council clerk all retreated into a backroom."

Reuters adds that the council had voted earlier this year to take down the Lee statue but has been prevented from doing so because of a legal challenge.

A Virginia law prevents local authorities from removing war memorials.

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Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
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