How We Got Here: A timeline of the removal of the Lee monument

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 3:26 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2021 at 8:11 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - It was a long road to how we got to this moment: the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue.

Erected more than 130 years ago, its counterparts were taken down by the city throughout the last year. But the legal battle to remove Lee lasted more than a year.

It’s been called iconic and divisive: the massive monument was first erected on May 29, 1890, surrounded by a crowd of 150,000. It was the first piece of Monument Avenue.

Fast forward to 2017 - that’s when Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney formed a commission to start the conversation about what to do with the six Confederate monuments that lined the famous street.

That conversation took another three years to really heat up, following the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed in May 2020.

By June 4 of that year, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced the Lee statue would be removed from the state-owned property it sat on.

But that wasn’t enough for many of the protesters who started taking matters into their own hands. Just two days later, the statue of Confederate leader Williams Carter Wickham was pulled down by protesters.

At that point, the legal battle started. A Richmond circuit court judge issued a ten-day injunction over the removal of the Lee statue.

Again, protesters reacted, forcibly taking down statues of Christopher Columbus, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the Howitzer Confederate statue near VCU’s Monroe Park campus in the following days.

By July 1, a new state law took effect allowing localities to take down war memorials and monuments. That very day, Mayor Stoney announced his plan to remove all 11 city-owned Confederate monuments. They were all removed shortly after.

Lawsuits were immediately filed to keep the Lee Monument in place. Five nearby property owners and the heir of those who donated the land for the Lee statue tried to reverse the governor’s order.

But on Sept. 2, 2021, the Virginia Supreme Court sided with the state, clearing the way for its removal on Sept. 8, 2021. By noon that day, Lee was once again on the ground of Monument Avenue, no longer perched 61 feet into the air, overlooking the former capital of the Confederacy.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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