The confederate statues at the center of the white supremacist rally that sparked a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and left one woman dead are again standing unobstructed at the town’s Emancipation Park.
The statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were, until Wednesday, hidden under tarps as a symbol of mourning. They had been for the past six months after that violent August weekend when 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist.
According to the New York Times, a circuit court judge in Virginia ruled Tuesday that the city would have to take the tarps down, as it did not appear to have plans to ever remove them. The judge, who had previously ruled in favor of the city to allow a short period of mourning, wrote that visitors and historians’ inability to view the monuments made for a “lost opportunity [that] cannot be undone.”
“The harm to defendants from removing the tarps and not being able to shield them until the matter goes to trial is outweighed by the harm to plaintiffs and the general public in not being able to view or enjoy them,” the judge wrote, per the Times.
The city has argued it meant only to keep the covers up for one year, until the anniversary of Heyer’s death, according to the Washington Post. The judge wrote that that argument was made “after-the-fact.”
The city had attempted to remove the Robert E. Lee statue last year. That effort, the white supremacists said later, was the focus of their rally on Aug. 12.
But even before the rally, the city was sued by groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans over the attempt to remove the statues. According to the Times, a 1904 state law bans city officials from removing or altering public war memorials. At the heart of the lawsuit still working its way through the courts is the question of whether these monuments glorifying Confederate generals can be considered public war memorials.
The final ruling on the statues is expected later this year.