A Virginia judge has ruled that the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are war monuments that the city of Charlottesville cannot remove without permission from the state.

Circuit Judge Richard E. Moore found that the statues pay homage to the Civil War, regardless of the intentions of the people who erected it, according to a nine-page ruling obtained by CBS 19 News on Monday.

Moore in his decision cited how the two statues are depicted in military uniforms and on horses associated with the Civil War.


“I believe that defendants have confused or conflated 1) what the statues are with 2) the intentions or motivations of some involved in erecting them, or the impact that they might have on some people and how they might make some people feel,” Moore wrote his in his ruling. “But that does not change what they are."

Virginia state code makes it illegal for local municipalities to remove monuments to war, Moore found. 

“I find there is no other reasonable conclusion but that these statues are monuments and memorials to Lee and Jackson ... I find this conclusion inescapable," Moore said. "It is the very reason the statues have been complained about from the beginning. It does no good pretending they are something other than what they actually are."

Moore notes that this ruling doesn't guarantee the plaintiffs will prevail if the issue goes before a jury. 

Charlottesville spokesperson Brian Wheeler told CBS 19 News that Moore will now decide whether the city has to pay damages and attorneys fees and whether the case will go to trial in September.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed after the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statue of Lee in early 2017. The move prompted white nationalists to organize the Unite the Right rally in August 2017. 

The rally sparked violence when an avowed neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring numerous others. James Alex Fields Jr. was convicted in December of first-degree murder as well as aggravated malicious wounding for the incident. He also pleaded guilty last month to federal hate crimes.

The protest has made headlines again recently after former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSteyer endorses Biden for president Sanders 2020 press secretary: Democratic leadership interested in 'corporate status quo' or 'they're planning to replace Joe' Biden joins calls to release racial breakdowns of coronavirus cases, deaths MORE alluded to it last week while announcing his bid for the presidency in 2020.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license MORE initially condemned the white supremacists, but was widely criticized when he followed up by saying there was blame on "both sides" as well as "very fine people on both sides."

Trump defended his comments again last week after Biden's announcement video.