RICHMOND, Va. - A large statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was be removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond 133 years after it was erected and 156 years after his surrender effectively ended the U.S. Civil War.
The state announced the statue's removal and the announcement came less than a week after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state could remove the statue.
“Virginia’s largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will come down this week,” Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement. “This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a Commonwealth.”
Parking restrictions and road closures went in place Tuesday, Sept. 7, as the state put up fencing along Monument Avenue and Allen Street.
"On Thursday, September 9, crews will remove the plaques from the base of the monument and will replace a time capsule that is believed to be located at the site," the announcement from the state read. "The 40‐foot granite pedestal will remain for now. The pedestal’s final disposition will be determined following a community‐driven effort to reimagine Monument Avenue, including the state‐owned property surrounding the monument and the pedestal."
The statue of Lee became the epicenter of the protests in Richmond. The monument was covered in graffiti, and at various times a picture of George Floyd — the man whose murder at the hands of police sparked nationwide protests — was projected onto the statue.
However, lawsuits have kept the statute intact. According to the Associated Press, those who filed suits included "a group of residents who own property near the statue and a descendant of signatories to a 1890 deed that transferred the statue, pedestal and land they sit on to the state."
While the courts weighed the legal fight over the Lee statue, other Confederate memorials on Monument Avenue were removed. Statues of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and Confederate Naval Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury were removed from Monument Avenue in early July 2020 and taken to an undisclosed location. A statue of Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart was removed from the area a week later.
Where will Lee go?
The Lee statue, according to the state, will be placed "in secure storage at a state‐owned facility" until a decision is made about its final resting spot.
How can I watch the Lee statue's removal?
The removal is in the video player above and on the News 3 social media platforms.
There was "limited" in-person viewing opportunities, according to the state.
The state previously said, "Public Viewing Protective fencing will be installed to ensure the safety of the crews removing the statue and those who choose to view it in person. This is necessary due to the statue’s location in a residential neighborhood and its size. Limited viewing opportunities will be available on a first‐come, first‐served basis."
The public viewing section along Monument Avenue near the Lee monument site opened at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, September 8, and will continue on Thursday, September 9. You can enter the viewing area from Stuart Circle.
After the removal, Virginia leaders released statements.
Gov. Ralph Northam said:
“After 133 years, the statue of Robert E. Lee has finally come down—the last Confederate statue on Monument Avenue, and the largest in the South. The public monuments reflect the story we choose to tell about who we are as a people. It is time to display history as history, and use the public memorials to honor the full and inclusive truth of who we are today and in the future.”
Attorney General Mark Herring said:
"Today is a historic day in Virginia. We can now turn the page to a new chapter in our Commonwealth’s history and continue the process of making Virginia a more open, welcoming, fair, and just place for everyone."