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Lee statue trial postponed again

A trial to decide the fate of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue has been postponed for the second time, leaving the statue in storage and plans for it in limbo until a new trial date is set.

The statue trial, originally scheduled for Feb. 1, was delayed because the city’s attorney, Richard Milnor, became ill. The new date was Thursday.

At about 9 p.m. Tuesday, an email from a spokesperson for the group that was given the statue said that no further details were available yet.

“We are sorry for this inconvenience, but it was out of our control,” said the email from Lisa Draine of the Swords Into Plowshares project.

Swords into Plowshares is the name given to a plan outlined by the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center when the city was seeking bids for the statue in late 2021. The plan calls for a melting of the Lee statue into ingots that would then be fashioned into a new work of community art.

City Council liked the Jefferson School proposal and voted Dec. 7, 2021 to give the statue to the Jefferson School, which has since sought community input on design ideas for the new piece of art.

But two would-be bidders on the statue, the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation and the Ratcliffe Foundation, sued to stop that from happening. They have argued that the gift to the Jefferson School was illegal and that the bidding process violated state and local policies.

The divisive statue was removed from its downtown location on July 10, 2021, after several years of debate about the appropriateness a monument of the leader of the army that rebelled against the U.S. Those arguments led to protests by Lee lovers, Confederate backers, white nationalists and, ultimately, neo-Nazis protesting in the city.

Those protests only grew more acrimonious and threatening, ultimately leading to the violence of Aug. 12, 2017, when counter-protester Heather Heyer was murdered by white nationalist James Fields.


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