A statue honoring Confederate Civil War General Robert E. Lee, which stood six stories above Richmond, Virginia, and inspired protests against racial injustice, is coming down this week.
The Commonwealth of Virginia said on Sunday that the 12-ton bronze statue on Monument Avenue would be removed on Wednesday and stored in a secure state-owned storage facility until a decision is made on its future.
The statue’s scheduled removal in the capital city comes only days after the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously declared that Governor Ralph Northam had the authority to do so since the paperwork governing its site was obsolete.
Northam, a Democrat, had stated that the monument will be down in June 2020, ten days after a white Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, a Black man, triggering worldwide demonstrations.
In recent years, statues honouring leaders of the pro-slavery Confederate side in the American Civil War have been a focal point for anti-racist rallies. Nearby people filed lawsuits to stop the removal, claiming that they had a property right to keep the monument in situ and it should be left alone. The court disagreed, stating that the paperwork governing the site of the monument were obsolete and unenforceable.
Whatever replaces the Lee statue, according to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, should convey a clear statement that ‘Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy. We are a diverse, open and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect that reality.’
The six-storey statue stands on a 40-foot (12.2-meter) granite pedestal that will be preserved while the city reimagines Monument Avenue, a popular tourist destination in the Confederacy’s former capital.