FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- A judge has ruled that officials in a Virginia city have the authority to approve the removal of a 176-year-old slave auction block from a street corner.
Circuit Court Judge Sarah Deneke’s ruling on Friday upheld the Fredericksburg City Council’s vote in favor of relocating the weathered stone to a local museum, The Free Lance-Star reported.
A kiosk with information about the auction block will replace it, the newspaper said. It wasn’t immediately clear when city officials plan to move the auction block to the Fredericksburg Area Museum
Two businesses near the auction block, a restaurant owner and commercial building owner, sued to block the removal of the slave auction block. They said the block is listed as a landmark in a historic district and a point of interest on a tourist map. They argued they will lose business from tourist traffic if the auction block is removed.
The businesses also argued that the City Council’s powers are limited to only those expressly granted by the state. But the judge concluded that Fredericksburg’s city charter was granted by the state and gives it the authority to control, manage and dispose of its property.
Council member Chuck Frye Jr., who called for removing the auction block at a meeting in 2017, said many blacks see the stone as a sign of disrespect.
“A lot of people have dealt with this pain for years. It’s way past time for it to be gone,” he said.