Down Goes Robert E. Lee in Richmond
The Robert E. Lee monument that has long been the centerpiece to Richmond’s Monument Avenue, and the center of controversy & protest, is coming down for good.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced on June 4, 2020, that he was ordering Lee removed from the state-owned property. A handful of local residents challenged the action in court and a judge temporarily blocked it. Though the residents lost their case, they appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which unanimously ruled in Northam’s favor last week, clearing the way for the removal.
During the delay, state officials used drones and cherry pickers to study the condition of the statue and the bolts holding it in place. They worked with historical preservationists and art experts to plan for the removal, which is expected to involve cutting the statue into two pieces, with Lee’s torso separated from the body of the horse.
Sculptor Paul DiPasquale, a consultant to the contractor overseeing the work, said plans call for tipping the pieces onto their sides and cushioning them for transport with layers of tires and wooden pallets.
The state plans to keep the statue in an undisclosed storage location until deciding what to do with it.
Confederate memorials quietly removed from Virginia’s Capitol overnight
In the meantime, the giant stone base will remain in place, though its plaques extolling Lee will be removed. The General Assembly has commissioned the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to gather input from experts and the public to come up with a new vision for the site and the Monument Avenue corridor.
After last year’s protests, the circle where Lee stands became an impromptu civic forum. Protesters planted a vegetable garden, put up a basketball hoop, gave speeches, staged concerts, registered people to vote and hosted cookouts on the lawn around the monument.
Residents, most of whom expressed approval for removing the statue, came to complain about the constant disruptions, which sometimes involved nighttime conflict between Black Lives Matter supporters and Confederate sympathizers and, not infrequently, the sound of gunfire.
Early this year, the state installed fencing around the traffic circle and blocked all access to the statue. Protesters dwindled in number, though a handful kept up a vigil in a median strip.
Confederate Stonewall Jackson statue removed in Richmond; city says others will come down ‘soon’
Almost all other Confederate memorials in Richmond have already come down. Protesters dragged former Confederate president Jefferson Davis off his pedestal last spring, and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney quickly decided to get rid of three other Confederate monuments on city-owned property on Monument Avenue — Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart and Matthew Fontaine Maury — along with several others around the city.
The only city-owned Confederate memorial still standing is a statue of Gen. A.P. Hill in an intersection on the north side of the city. Its removal is taking longer to plan because its namesake is buried, standing up, beneath the statue.