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Virginia city votes to remove nearly century-old Robert E. Lee statue

Image source: WHSV-TV

The city council in Charlottesville, Virginia, has voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee that has been standing in Lee Park for 93 years.

The Charlottesville City Council voted in a 3-2 vote to do away with the statue memorializing the Confederate general. Following the vote on the statue, city leaders unanimously agreed to scrub Lee's name from the park's title, according to WTVR-TV.

It's unclear what will happen to the statue upon its removal from the park.

"There is not just one way to honor history, particularly at the expense of our neighbors," councilman Bob Fenwick, a Democrat who supported removing the Lee statue, told WVAC-TV.

It was Mayor Mike Singer and councilwoman Kathy Galvin, both Democrats, who voted against removing the equestrian statue of Lee. Both cited concerns about the cost to uproot the display, which the council estimated to be around $300,000, WHSV-TV reported.

But Democratic councilwoman Kristin Szakos argued there is another cost worth consideration. She asserted the emotional toll of the statue's presence has already cost residents enough.

"I believe it is the most cost-effective way to reduce the harm that has happened over nine decades of veneration," she said.

The discussion was very heated. In fact, according to local reports, police had to step in at one point to eject four people from the council chambers as official clashed over the subject. Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy urged people on both sides of the debate to work toward "understanding."

"Just because we disagree on this issue doesn’t mean anyone who disagrees with me is my enemy," he said. "The only way for us to move forward is for us to love each other, understand each other, and that we have to do this together."

Doing away with Confederate — and otherwise controversial — history in the U.S. is a growing trend. In fact, last year, faculty and students at the University of Virginia, which is located in Charlottesville and was founded by former President Thomas Jefferson, demanded the founding father's quotes be removed from administrative emails.

UVA President Teresa Sullivan was attacked for sending an email with a Jefferson quote, which critics said "undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey."

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