CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. —
The mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, has called for the removal of Confederate monuments like the statue at the center of a white nationalist rally last week that turned violent.
Mayor Mike Signer called for a special session of the Virginia General Assembly to let Virginia’s cities and towns decide the fate of their Confederate monuments.
However, a spokesman for the state’s governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, said he would not call a special session while the issue is being decided in court.
Signer said recent clashes over race and the monuments had turned “equestrian statues into lightning rods.
“We can, and we must, respond by denying the Nazis and the KKK and the so-called alt-right the twisted totem they seek,'' Signer said in a statement.
"Whether they go to museums, cemeteries, or other willing institutions, it is clear that they no longer can be celebrated in shared civic areas," he added.
Charlottesville’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was at the center of last Saturday’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that left three people dead and 19 others injured. One woman was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters.
The city council voted in February to remove the statue of Lee, but opponents sued in March, saying the city didn’t have that power under state law.
Following last week’s violence, U.S. President Donald Trump drew criticism for initially addressing the violence in broad terms and not singling out the white nationalists. He also was sharply rebuked, including by fellow Republicans, for blaming the violence on “both sides” not just the white nationalist rally organizers, but also the activists who opposed them.
On Thursday, President Trump said it is "so foolish" for American cities to be removing statues commemorating Confederate generals and soldiers who fought on the losing side of the country's 19th century Civil War.
The Civil War is a seminal event in American history, fought from 1861 to 1865. Eleven states left the union in part over Southern landowners' demands to own slaves. It ended with Union troops prevailing but with 620,000 lives lost, many more injured and much of the South devastated.