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Lee monument grounds to close nightly

Updated: Jun. 23, 2020 at 3:01 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Monday marked the first day of a new rule that restricts anyone from gathering at the Lee Monument at night. The idea is not sitting too well with protesters who defied those orders and resumed gathering Monday evening.

Police did not take any action and officials are encouraging voluntary compliance before they enforce the measure.

In recent weeks, the Robert E. Lee monument has become an open space for people to gather, protest and even play basketball. In recent days, tents have gone up and that hit a nerve for many who live along Monument Avenue.

“This morning when I walked my dog by, it just wreaked of urine and I realized there’s one [portable toilet] so these people are going in the median, they’re going in the street, it just can’t be healthy,” a resident said who asked not to be identified. Her home is a few doors away from the statue.

“There’s firecrackers that have been going off all night until 3:30 a.m., helicopters every night except for two nights since this began…There’s traffic that’s been going up and down the street taking up both lanes in one direction and sometimes not the correct direction. There are protesters just being loud, and graffiti,” she added.

She agrees with new guidelines. As of Monday, no one will be allowed to gather at the monument from sunset to sunrise. During the day, no one will be allowed to climb the monument or place banners or any other objects on the statue.

“We had to deal with stuff for 400 years. Just being realistic. You’ve had peace and the opportunity to stay on this strip, Monument Avenue, for hundreds of years with no issues so now that we’re getting some freedom and solidarity. I believe that we should be allowed to be out here,” Marquise Trent said.

He doesn’t believe the restrictions will go over well.

“If we can’t get justice for our lives, for our well-being, then there will be no peace, even if it’s just uncomfortability for the residents…At this point people are tired. People are really willing to put it on the line if need be in order to get their voices heard. A lot has changed since people have stood out there and stood their ground. If we’re citizens like you say we are, then what’s the issue,” he added.

The ACLU says this measure will only escalate tensions between protesters and police, and doesn’t advance free speech or public safety.

When the grounds reopen during the daylight hours, visitors are advised to follow these regulations:

  • Vehicles are prohibited
  • No climbing on the statue or its steps
  • Maximum occupancy is 500
  • No additional banners, flags, posters or other objects shall be placed on or affixed to the statue
  • Unlawful activity is prohibited
  • Events expected to draw 10 or more people require a permit

For more information on regulations, click here.

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