Va. Gov. Northam to Announce Removal of Robt. E. Lee Statue in Richmond

‘The radical left will not be satisfied until all white people are purged from our history books…’

Va. Gov. Northam to Announce Removal of Robt. E. Lee Statue in Richmond

Statue Robert E. Lee in the middle of a traffic circle on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va./AP Photo

(Liberty Headlines) Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to announce plans Thursday to remove one of the country’s most iconic monuments to the Confederacy, a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee along Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.

The move would be an extraordinary victory for activists, whose calls for the removal of that monument and others in this former capital of the Confederacy have been resisted for years.

“That is a symbol for so many people, black and otherwise, of a time gone by of hate and oppression and being made to feel less than,” said Del. Jay Jones, a black lawmaker from Norfolk.

He said he was “overcome” by emotion when he learned the statue was to come down.

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The Democratic governor — whose own history includes him appearing in a racist photo while in medical school — will direct the statue to be moved off its massive pedestal and put into storage while his administration seeks input on a new location, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak before the governor’s announcement.

Northam’s decision comes amid turmoil across the nation and around the world over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes, even after he stopped moving.

Floyd’s death has sparked outrage over issues of alleged racism and police brutality and prompted a new wave of Confederate memorial removals.

The Lee statue is one of five Confederate monuments along Monument Avenue, a prestigious residential street and National Historic Landmark district. Monuments along the avenue have been rallying points during protests in recent days over Floyd’s death, and they have been tagged with graffiti, including messages that say “end police brutality” and “stop white supremacy.”

It was not immediately clear when the Lee statue would be removed.

Other tragedies in recent years have prompted similar nationwide soul searching over Confederate monuments, which some people regard as inappropriate tributes to the South’s slave-holding past. Others compare monument removals to erasing history.

Also on Wednesday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced plans to seek the removal of the other Confederate monuments along Monument Avenue, which include statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gens. Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. Those statues sit on city land, unlike the Lee statue, which is on state property.

Stoney said he would introduce an ordinance July 1 to have the statues removed. That’s when a new law goes into effect, which was signed earlier this year by Northam, that undoes an existing state law protecting Confederate monuments and instead lets local governments decide their fate.

“I appreciate the recommendations of the Monument Avenue Commission – those were the appropriate recommendations at the time,” Stoney said in a statement, referencing a panel he established that studied what should be done with the monuments and recommended the removal of the Davis tribute. “But times have changed, and removing these statues will allow the healing process to begin for so many Black Richmonders and Virginians. Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy – it is filled with diversity and love for all – and we need to demonstrate that.”

Bill Gallasch, president of the Monument Avenue Preservation Society, said he worried the statues’ removal would change the “soul” of the street, hurt tourism in historic Richmond and stir up violence between far-right and far-left groups.

The monument-removal plans also drew criticism from the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. And Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase, who is also running for governor, started a petition on her campaign website to save the statues.

“The radical left will not be satisfied until all white people are purged from our history books,” Chase’s website said.

Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.