Virginia Supreme Court to hear arguments on the future of Robert E. Lee statue in early June

Gov. Northam announces the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond will be removed
Gov. Northam announces the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond will be removed
Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 2:28 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia’s highest court plans to hear arguments on Tuesday, June 8 in two cases that challenge the state’s authority to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Monument Avenue.

Attorney General Mark Herring previously filed a brief with the Supreme Court of Virginia asking for the court to dissolve the injunction blocking the removal of the statue, but the court decided to move forward with oral arguments.

Tuesday, June 8th is the same day as Virginia’s primary elections, and the Supreme Court of Virginia’s online court docket indicates the schedule for these cases may change.

Herring wanted the court to uphold the Richmond Circuit Court’s ruling in Oct. 2020 that said the removal of the statue is lawful. The Richmond Circuit Court judge “found that the statue was raised against a backdrop of white supremacy and that it is against public policy to keep it up, but the ruling was stayed pending appeal.”

“The Lee statue has held a place of prominence in the capital of Virginia, sending a message of white supremacy and division, for far too long and it is time for it to come down” said Herring. “The continued obstruction that has so far prohibited the commonwealth from exercising its right to remove state-owned property must stop. I remain committed to ensuring that this stark reminder of a racist past comes down, allowing Virginia to move forward on its journey of healing and reconciliation.”

In the brief, Herring discusses “the statue’s prominent role in perpetuating Lost Cause propaganda and promoting racially segregated neighborhoods in Richmond.”

The plaintiffs in the case are arguing that Governor Ralph Northam does not have the authority to remove the statue because it would violate restrictive covenants in deeds that transferred the statue, its pedestal, and the land they sit on to the state.

Virginia has budgeted just under $1.1 million for the removal of the statue.

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