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Final preparations underway ahead of Robert E. Lee statue removal

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 4:31 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2021 at 11:17 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Tuesday was Robert E. Lee’s final night standing in Richmond. On Wednesday, contractors for the state will take the controversial confederate statue off its pedestal.

“To know that their labor, their tears, their blood, their sweat and all of the wrong that they endured,” said Alexsis Rodgers, Care in Action Virginia Director.

For Rodgers, an activist, the day the Lee statue is finally removed from Monument Avenue couldn’t have come sooner.

“These monuments to the lost cause, to people who didn’t respect people like me - don’t have a home here in one of the most prominent streets in the City of Richmond,” said Rodgers.

“For the people that those monuments assaulted in their meaning, it’s been 400 years, and it’s well time to go. I never realized before because I didn’t think about it, what those monuments mean for African-American people,” one man said.

The bulk of the work will happen between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. After a crane lifts the 12-ton statue, Lee and his horse, Traveler, to the ground, it will be cut into three pieces for transport. The piece of bronze went up in 1890.

Governor Ralph Northam announced intentions last year to remove Lee from the state-owned property. Last week, Northam finally won the right to take it down after more than a year in litigation.

Richmond’s Police Chief says people are welcome to come and watch, but they must be peaceful.

“It’s a historical event. It’s a historic, peaceful event. Come down to watch Lee come down but any other agenda, you know, I don’t know what they would be seeking,” said Chief Gerald Smith, Richmond Police Dept.

The work isn’t done Wednesday. On Thursday, crews will remove the plaques and replace a time capsule on site. The 40-foot granite pedestal will remain for now as a plan comes together for the future of Monument Avenue.

For Rodgers, the removal is a moment she can’t miss.

“In the South, to see full circle that monument come down, to think about how they would feel in this moment, to know that their great-granddaughter, their ancestor is here to witness it and working on these issues is truly breathtaking,” said Rodgers.

The public viewing area opens at 8 a.m. Wednesday on a first-come, first-serve basis.

On Tuesday night, about 40 people gathered at the monument despite being told to leave - they’re questioning why they have to. So far, NBC12 crews had not noticed any police taking action.

There are multiple road closures in effect, along with fencing and a large police presence.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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