POLITICS

Virginia To Take Down Robert E. Lee Statue

Activists have long denounced the monument to the Confederate leader, which has spurred increased backlash as people protest against racist police brutality.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is planning to announce on Thursday the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond.

The statue, located on Richmond’s well-known Monument Avenue, will be placed in storage, according to The Associated Press, which first reported on the announcement.  

The Democratic governor’s office, which confirmed the decision to HuffPost, did not immediately clarify when the statue would come down. 

The governor’s move comes as people protest systemic racism and police brutality across the nation in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, who was Black, pleaded “I can’t breathe” as white officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck.  

Protesters in Richmond have gathered at the Lee statue in recent days, calling for officials to tear it down. The statue now has graffiti on it, including messages saying “end police brutality” and stop white supremacy.”

Activists have long called for the removal of the monument to the Confederate general. 

After white nationalist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine Black people at a South Carolina church in 2015, dozens of Confederate symbols and monuments came down across the country at activists’ insistence. There were more calls for the removal of Richmond’s Lee statue after the 2017 deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was itself spurred by the planned removal of another statue honoring Lee.  

Earlier this year, Northam expressed support for removing a statue of Lee located at the U.S. Capitol. Last year, a racist yearbook photo of the governor surfaced in which he and another person posed in blackface and a Klansman’s white hood. (Northam confirmed he was in the photo and apologized, but did not specify which of the racist disguises he was wearing).   

On Wednesday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced plans to introduce an ordinance that will remove all Confederate statues on Monument Avenue. The statues, including ones of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart, are on city land, The Associated Press reported. The Lee statue is on state land.

“Times have changed, and removing these statues will allow the healing process to begin for so many Black Richmonders and Virginians,” Stoney said in a release. “Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy — it is filled with diversity and love for all — and we need to demonstrate that.”

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