Last week, eight plaintiffs suing the city testified to the emotional harm done to them by not being able to see the statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson for 188 days, while the monuments were shrouded in tarps following the horrifying violence of Unite the Right.
The tears of Monument Fund director Jock Yellot weren’t enough to convince Judge Richard Moore that the plaintiffs’ psychic pain merited $500 each (he ruled that the law only allowed for damages for physical harm), but city taxpayers will still foot the bill for thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees. And the statues, more than two years after our elected representatives voted to remove them, will stay up.
Judge Moore said Thursday that he could find no evidence of racially discriminatory intent in the construction of the monuments. But as Jefferson School director Andrea Douglas and UVA professor Jalane Schmidt point out in their popular downtown statues tour, the Jackson statue was dedicated in 1921, the same year the Charlottesville KKK was founded, and the city made room for it by demolishing a predominantly black neighborhood and replacing it with a whites-only park. A few days before the Lee statue was dedicated, in 1924, (also in a whites-only park), KKK members reportedly held a celebratory march through downtown, accompanied by a brass band.
While Moore’s decision puts an end to a case that’s dragged on for two and a half years, Monument Fund plaintiff Edward Dickinson Tayloe II is not done with lawsuits: he’s also suing Schmidt, along with this newspaper and news editor Lisa Provence, for defamation. (If you’re not familiar with that lawsuit, I’d refer you to the recent Daily Beast story, “Charlottesville Confederate statue defender sues paper, prof, for reporting his family’s slaveholding history.”)
Unrelated to the lawsuit, Provence, C–VILLE’s longtime news editor, is retiring this week. Provence has been a force in local journalism since her days at The Hook, and though I’ve only worked with her for a year, I can testify to her toughness, her ever-skeptical eye, and her deadpan wit, all of which will be sorely missed. We hope to see more of her stories in these pages, as a freelance contributor, but in the meantime, we wish her a little well-deserved R&R.