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Monday, October 14, 2019

After monument of Confederate soldier vandalized, Virginia city sues to move it elsewhere

Federal Court

By Carrie Bradon | Sep 18, 2019


Norfolk's Confederate monument | Yelp

NORFOLK, Va. (Legal Newsline) – A Virginia city and its council are suing the Commonwealth in order to move a Confederate monument.

The city of Norfolk and its city council filed a complaint on Aug. 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against the Commonwealth and a few officials, alleging unlawful restraint on free speech and other counts.

The suit states that Norfolk owns a monument erected in 1907 that depicts a Confederate soldier. The plaintiffs allege the monument was vandalized with spray paint and chalk three times in 2017 and the city cleaned it. 

The plaintiffs state in their lawsuit that they would like to move the monument to a location such as a public cemetery where "it would be less likely to be violated." It possibly faces liability from certain statutes for doing so.

"The Commonwealth of Virginia has enacted legislation that purports to protect memorials related to wars and battles such as the monument but does so in a way that takes away fundamental rights that belong to the city and its city council," the suit states. 

"The statutes that are challenged by this lawsuit force the city to keep the monument where it is, to make no adjustments or enhancements whatsoever to the monument, to suffer the interference of any citizen who seeks to tamper with the monument under the premise that they are 'protecting' it, and to continue to maintain the same message in the same location in perpetuity."

News reports indicate that vandals have written "SHAME" and "TAKE IT DOWN" on the monument.

The plaintiffs allege that the "purpose of this suit is to unbuckle the straitjacket that the commonwealth has placed the city and the city council in" and that because they own the monument, they have a constitutional right to control who can tamper with it and the right to move it. 

The plaintiffs are seeking declaratory judgment, attorneys' fees, costs, interest and just relief. The plaintiffs are represented by city attorney Adam D. Melita.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia case number 2:19-CV-00436

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Norfolk Division

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