RICHMOND, Va. — A state agency is looking for your input on how the use of the space around the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond should be regulated.
Back in 2017, then-Governor Terry McAuliffe issued Executive Order 67 which put emergency regulations in place around the statue. This came after violent protests sparked in Charlottesville months before, following calls to remove Confederate monuments.
A task force was formed under McAuliffe’s executive order to come up with a proposal for how to address safety concerns around the area.
“If you look around here, Capitol Square is a public park.” Capitol Police spokesperson Joe Macenka said. “The Lee Monument is not a public park. It’s in the middle of a neighborhood.”
Capitol Police patrol the Lee monument as well as other state buildings in Richmond.
The Department of General Services wants to make the emergency regulations permanent. The emergency regulations are set to expire in May.
A major concern, Macenka says, is balancing freedom of speech for demonstrators as well as safety in the neighborhood. The monument is located in a busy roundabout, without a direct crosswalk to the statue itself.
The proposed regulations include applying for a special event permit when 10 or more people want to gather around the monument and people cannot be out there after dark.
“If you do want to have a protest there, you need to file for a permit ahead of time if you have a certain number of people on the premises,” Macenka said. “The more people you want to have there, the larger the law enforcement response we’re going to have to put there.”
Also, no banners, flags or posters can be put on the statue and no vehicle can be on the monument grounds.
Over the years, there have been a number of incidents of vandalism on the monument, even as recent as last week. Another provision in the regulations would prohibit any unlawful activity.
The Department of General Services will be collecting public comments on Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. at the Virginia War Memorial Carillon at 1300 Blanton Avenue in Richmond’s Byrd Park.
If you want to speak, you have to register in person starting at 9 a.m. Each person will have two minutes to talk. You can also submit comments online here, until March 8.