Virginia Supreme Court Green-Lights Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue

The court sided with the state's decision to take down the statue on Richmond's Monument Avenue. Gov. Ralph Northam called the ruling a "tremendous win."

Robert E. Lee statue

Image via Getty/Patrick Smith

Robert E. Lee statue

Virginia is one step closer to removing the Robert E. Lee statue on Richmond’s Monument Avenue.

According to the New York Times, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed a circuit court ruling that paved the way for the 12-ton statue’s removal in the capital city. The decision was explained in two opinions Thursday, more than a year after Gov. Ralph Northam announced the state’s intentions to take down the monument, which has been widely criticized as a symbol of hate, racism, and slavery.

“Today’s ruling is a tremendous win for the people of Virginia,” the Democratic governor said in a statement Thursday. “Our public memorials are symbols of who we are and what we value. 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.”

In wake of Northam’s 2020 announcement to remove the statue of the Confederate general, a number of residents attempted to block the move in court. The group argued that the governor could not order the monument’s removal because it would violate 19th century deeds reportedly signed by their ancestors, who transferred ownership of the statue—and the land on which it sits—to the State of Virginia. 

The Virginia Supreme Court determined the “restrictive covenants” in said deeds no longer apply.

“Those restrictive covenants are unenforceable as contrary to public policy and for being unreasonable because their effect is to compel government speech, by forcing the Commonwealth to express, in perpetuity, a message with which it now disagrees,” the court wrote.

The monument will reportedly go into storage as state officials decide determine its fate. 

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