Virginia officials will remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, Confederate general, that has stood 60 feet above Richmond's capital for more than a century. This is the end of months of legal acrimony and the latest Confederate monument to be removed.
On June 4, 2019, people gathered at Robert E. Lee's statue on Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia.... [+] 2020. AFP via Getty Images
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On Wednesday, crews will take the bronze statue of Lee riding on horseback, 21 feet tall, from its pedestal at Richmond. They will store it in a state facility until they make a decision about its disposition, officials stated Monday. Although the statue's granite pedestal of 40 feet will be left onsite in the middle a grassy rotary at Richmond's Monument Avenue, crews will remove plaques attached to it.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) said that this is an important step in expressing who we are as citizens and what we believe in the commonwealth. Ralph Northam (D), said in a statement.
The Lee statue was installed in Richmond, which was the Confederacy's capital in 1890. This occurred before a national surge in Confederate monument-building during the 20th century, particularly in states that were racially segregated. The statue has been in demand by locals for many years. Northam was pushed to remove the monument in June 2020 amid rising racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Northam was subject to two lawsuits by plaintiffs who claimed that the governor could not remove the statue because of a 19th-century property deed. However, the state Supreme Court confirmed Northam's authority to remove the monument last week and allowed him to proceed with the removal.
For years, state and local governments have been pushing for the removal of Confederate statues. Many critics label them as symbols of white supremacy. The process was accelerated last year. Charleston took down a statue of South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun last June 2020. Richmond removed statues Stonewall Jackson and other Confederate generals last summer. Tennessee also removed Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was also a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, from its state capitol six week ago. In mid-July in Virginia, Charlottesville removed Jackson and Lee statues. This was four years after a proposal to remove the Lee statue had been rejected. It also came amid a violent white nationalist rally.