Virginia removes 12-ton Robert E. Lee statue from Richmond’s Monument Avenue
A towering bronze depiction of General Robert E Lee – one of the largest Confederate statues in the US – has been removed from its pedestal in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy.
At 8:54 a.m., a man in an orange jacket waved his arms, and the 21-foot statue rose into the air and glided, slowly, to a flatbed truck below. The sun had just come out and illuminated the towering gray pedestal as a small crowd on the east side of the monument let out a cheer.
“As a native of Richmond, I want to say that the head of the snake has been removed,” said Gary Flowers, a radio show host and civil rights activist, who is Black and was watching the activity. He said he planned to celebrate on Wednesday night and would tell pictures of his dead relatives that “the humiliation and agony and pain you suffered has been partly lifted.”
“This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a Commonwealth,” Northam said in a statement.
Last week, the Supreme Court of Virginia denied or dissolved injunctive relief sought in two lawsuits challenging the statue’s removal — one filed by a descendant of the former owners of the land where the monument stands, the other by several owners and a trustee of property in the area’s historic district — allowing the state to move forward with its plans.
The removal is “extremely complex,” the state’s Department of General Services said, requiring “coordination with multiple entities to ensure the safety of everyone involved.” The removal process began Tuesday evening with crews installing protective fencing on the streets near the monument.
A statue of Black tennis hero and Richmond native Arthur Ashe that was erected on the avenue in 1996 is expected to remain.
As for the Lee statue, Northam has said his administration will seek public input on what should happen to it next.