The state’s Supreme Court greenlit the removal of the statue last week, with its removal coming over a year after Gov. Ralph Northam announced intentions to take down the monument. A crew of workers took down the statue on Wednesday morning, with a crowd cheering its removal nearby. Originally erected in 1890, the 12-tonne Lee statue was the last of six Confederate monuments to be removed from Monument Avenue. The statue has been criticized for decades as a symbol of hate, racism, and slavery.
Upon the announcement of the Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling last week, Gov. Ralph Northam called it “a tremendous win” for the state and its citizens. “Our public memorials are symbols of who we are and what we value,” he said. “When we honor leaders who fought to preserve a system that enslaved human beings, we are honoring a lost cause that has burdened Virginia for too many years. Today it is clear: The largest Confederate monument in the South is coming down.”
Black Lives Matter Richmond, VA founder Lawrence West called the moment “very satisfying” in a statement shared with CNN. “Robert E. Lee standing here on Monument Avenue is very symbolic to the Confederate mindset, you know the levels of oppression that people feel on a regular day-to-day basis,” West said. “With the coming down of the monument it is also a part of coming down with those types of ideals. It brings some closure to the conversation, ‘It’s OK to be racist.’”
The state of Virginia also saw the removal of another notable Confederate statue earlier this year in Charlottesville. That removal came after five years after the city council received a petition to the statue, which prompted the 2017 Unite the Right rally, organized by noted neo-nazis Richard Spencer and Jason kessler. One person at the rally, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed when a white supremacist protester drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.