RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Richmond’s massive statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee will stay in place in the former capital of the Confederacy at least a while longer while a lawsuit over the governor’s plans to remove it plays out.
A judge on Tuesday issued a ruling that favors Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who announced plans to take down the behemoth in June after the death of George Floyd. But the judge suspended his order pending the resolution of an appeal.
🚨BREAKING🚨 We WON the Lee statue case after a judge found that it was raised against a backdrop of white supremacy and that it is against public policy to keep it up. The ruling is *stayed* pending appeal, but this is a HUGE win and we're on the path to bringing down this relic pic.twitter.com/pn0plhDze4— Mark Herring (@MarkHerringVA) October 27, 2020
The lawsuit was brought by a group of Richmond residents who live near the statue. Reached by phone, one of their attorneys, Patrick McSweeney, said he had already spoken with his clients, and they would appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Governor Northam released the following statement in regards to the hearing:
Governor Ralph Northam issued the following statement after Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant ruled in his favor in Taylor v. Northam, affirming the Governor’s authority to remove the Robert E. Lee monument.
“The Lee monument was built to celebrate the Confederacy and uphold white supremacy. This victory moves Virginia forward in removing this relic of the past—one that was erected for all the wrong reasons.
“I am grateful to Attorney General Mark Herring and his team for their tremendous work on this case. Today we are one step closer to a more inclusive, equitable, and honest Virginia.”
While Judge Marchant ruled in the Governor’s favor, he is prohibiting action to remove the Lee monument pending appeal. Plaintiffs may file a notice of appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court within the next 30 days.
Floyd’s death sparked a renewed wave of Confederate monument removals across the U.S., as did a violent 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and a mass shooting at a historic African American church in South Carolina.
Critics of the statues say they distastefully glorify people who fought to preserve slavery in the South. Others say their removal amounts to erasing history.
Four other prominent statues of Confederate leaders have been taken down from city property along the avenue since Northam announced plans to remove Lee.
The Lee statue, which sits on a state-owned parcel of land along Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue, was unveiled before a massive crowd in May 1890, at a time when the Civil War and Reconstruction were over and Jim Crow racial segregation laws were on the rise.