Debates linger over removal of Lee statue on Monument Avenue

Published: Jul. 10, 2021 at 6:57 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The City of Charlottesville’s removal of statues honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson was a moment five years in the making.

Since 2016, the city’s Confederate monuments were the focus of debate, controversy, and even bloodshed. But now those who witnessed its removal firsthand say the city can finally move forward.

“This statue is finally being surrendered... but it’s just one small step,” Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said. “We are so far from the perfect union, yet one step closer today as these two statues come down.”

Governor Ralph Northam took to Twitter following the removal, calling the move an important step toward building a more welcoming state.

The two statues removal in Charlottesville is something Richmond’s NNACP president JJ Minor says he is also happy to see. In addition to the Confederate leaders, a statue of Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea was removed after an emergency meeting on Saturday.

“I think that you in Charlottesville have all have done the right thing as far as removing the Lee statue,” Minor said. “I’m from Richmond and I’ll be even more excited when this traitor, a person who represents evils, statue comes down.”

But that likely won’t happen anytime soon. Mayor Levar Stoney’s office says it’s done all it can to remove Confederate monuments in the city, but that ultimately the Virginia Supreme Court is considering two lawsuits that challenge Northam’s plan to remove the Lee statue from Monument Avenue.

Last month oral arguments were heard virtually. Two attorneys representing a handful of Monument Avenue residents urged the high court to reverse a decision made by a Richmond City Circuit Court judge in 2020.

Currently, Richmond’s Lee monument sits defaced, behind two layers of the concrete barricade and fencing and until the state’s Supreme Court makes the decision on where it will remain.

Attorney General Mike Herring said it could be several months before a decision is made, but Minor hopes that after Charlottesville’s actions Saturday that decision will come much sooner.

“I think that the Supreme Court will look at what happened in Charlottesville and look at what happened around the country and I’m hoping that they will do the right thing and remove the statute.”

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