RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond judge has sided with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in the legal battle to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Monument Avenue, dissolving an injunction Tuesday that had blocked the Confederate monument’s removal for months.
Despite the ruling, the Lee statue will not be taken off its pedestal quite yet as Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant suspended his order until after the resolution of an appeal.
Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring on Twitter is calling it a huge win.
He said, “It will send a very strong message about how Virginia today values equality, values inclusiveness, that we recognize that this statue was a relic to a white supremacist past that does not reflect who we are as a Commonwealth.”
FULL INTERVIEW: AG Herring speaks following judge’s decision on Lee Statue
Patrick McSweeney, the attorney for the Monument Avenue residents who filed the lawsuit, told 8News that they plan to appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia but that “they need time to digest the opinion before commenting.”
Lawsuits aimed at preventing the state from removing the Lee statue have been filed, dropped, amended and refiled since the governor announced that he had instructed the Virginia Department of General Services to take it down as soon as possible in early June.
The plan to remove the statue from Monument Avenue, which calls for the sculpture to be “partially disassembled” into three sections, has already been unanimously approved by a state review board.
The process would require two phases, one to take down the 13-ton sculpture and another to remove the monument’s pedestal, the conservator selected by the state, B.R. Howard Conservation, said in the plan. The firm writes that based on an on-site inspection, the sculpture can be taken from its base “as a single unit,” but would need to be disassembled to “meet the highway height restrictions” during transport.
“It is believed, based upon recent on-site observation of the monument and the review of written accounts which describe the assembly of the sculpture in 1890, that the bronze sculpture will be separated into three sections, cast base and legs of the horse, the body and head of the horse, and the figure, from the waist up,” the plan states.
Dena Potter, spokeswoman for the state Department of General Services, told 8News that the exact number of cuts required is still not clear and won’t be until the statue is removed from its pedestal.
Governor Ralph Northam issued the following after Judge Marchant ruled in his favor in Taylor v. Northam, affirming the Governor’s authority to remove the Robert E. Lee monument.
The Lee monument was built to celebrate the Confederacy and uphold white supremacy. This victory moves Virginia forward in removing this relic of the past—one that was erected for all the wrong reasons. I am grateful to Attorney General Mark Herring and his team for their tremendous work on this case. Today we are one step closer to a more inclusive, equitable, and honest Virginia.”Governor Northam Statement on Circuit Court Ruling in Lee Monument Case
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