A towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will be removed from Richmond’s Monument Avenue, according to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. The statue which sits on State Property will be moved as soon as possible to a storage, while Northam’s administration determines it’s future.
Northam made the decision after days of angry protests in Richmond and across the country over the death of George Floyd. Floyd died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed a knee into his neck while he was pleading for air. The statue has become a frequent target of vandalism during the protests, with several people chanting “tear it down.”
Through a statement, the Virginia governor noted, “In 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people.” The decision of the removal also came a day after Richmonds’ mayor, Levar Stoney, announced he will seek to remove the other four Confederate statues along Monument Avenue, which is a prestigious residential street and a National Historic Landmark distinct.
In response to the news about the removal of the statue, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus called it a step in the “right direction” into the fight to end racism and the “remaining vestiges of Jim Crow in our Commonwealth.” The caucus also stated the removal was long overdue, especially since the statue was a constant reminder to Virginians of “racism, dehumanization, and hate.”
The Lee monument is the latest controversial statue to be brought down during the furor over the racial injustice and police brutality that is currently playing out all over the world. The city of Birmingham, Alabama, also took down an obelisk to Confederate troops this week which had also stood for more than a century. Philadelphia’s mayor also decided to remove a statue honoring Frank Rizzo, who was the former police commissioner and mayor who rose to prominence during the late 1960s.
Through a statement, a descendant of Lee, Rev. Robert W. Lee IV, also endorsed the removal, stating, “Today is a day of justice not for my family but the families of countless enslaved persons who continually have fought for justice both long before and long after the Civil War,” Lee, who attended the governor’s press conference, said in a statement. “Though I know the statue’s eventual promised removal won’t fix the issues we face it is a sign that sentiments and hearts are changing toward justice.”