Fenwick confident there's still a case to remove statues

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Former Charlottesville City Council member Bob Fenwick does not believe Judge Richard Moore's ruling that the Lee and Jackson statues cannot be removed by localities is the end of the debate in a lawsuit against him.

"I'm very comfortable with what I did," said Fenwick. "If there are any ramifications that come from it, I'll take them."

He can face large legal fines both as an individual and as part of the city for voting to remove the Confederate statues of Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson. The statues are located in two downtown Charlottesville parks.

Also named in the suit are other current and former city council members who made that vote: Mike Signer, Wes Bellamy, Kath Galvin, and Kristin Szakos.

"The important part is, does the council have legislative immunity, sort of like how a judge has judicial immunity so that the conclusions and the decisions that we make as councilors are final," said Fenwick. "It was a lawful act that we did."

Moore still has other motions to consider. Fenwick said he believes they still have a good case to remove the statues.

"It's based on a flawed law, so the law doesn't make much difference, it was a public process, it was a lawful process, so that's our case," said Fenwick.

Don Gathers was chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces for the city. The commission had recommended to the council in 2016 to move the Lee statue to McIntire Park and leave the Jackson statue in place.

That led to council voting to remove the Lee statue. The decision to remove both statues was made after the Unite the Right Rally on Aug. 12, 2017.

"I still don't think they deserve or need to be in a public square," said Gathers. "I think they should be in a museum somewhere, or at least in McIntire park since Mr. McIntire years ago deeded them to the city."

Gathers said Moore's ruling is unjust. Now he hopes people will focus on the state capital in order to change this law.

"I would really think that people would come to realize that it's important that we vote in statewide elections because apparently now the only way that we can get this changed is to change the law," he said. "And the law really needs to give localities what to do with these types of monuments."

Fenwick said the lawsuit, which was first filed in spring of 2017, has gone on long enough, and that it is time for a final decision to be made so that the city can move on.

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