For people who want so badly for black people to just forget about slavery, conservative white people sure seem bound and determined to hold on to the very monuments that immediately remind black folk of what our ancestors endured. Many of us were beside ourselves with joy after we learned that the 130-year-old statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee would be removed from Richmond’s Monument Avenue, but it appears we started celebrating too early, because on Thursday, Richmond Circuit Judge Bradley B. Cavedo indefinitely extended an injunction preventing Gov. Ralph Northam from proceeding with plans to remove the statue.
On June 4, Northam announced that monuments commemorating Lee and four other Confederate leaders will be removed and placed into storage. On June 8, Cavedo granted a temporary injunction barring the state of Virginia from removing the Lee statue after “a descendant of the couple who signed the deed giving land for the monument to the state” filed a lawsuit, the Washington Post reports. Ten days later, the descendant failed to prove his case, but Cavedo extended the injunction anyway.
From the Post:
Cavedo ruled Thursday that the descendant, William C. Gregory, had not proved that he had standing to bring the suit. A lawyer for the state attorney general’s office argued that restrictions in the deed requiring Virginia to “affectionately protect” the statue could only be invoked by an owner of the property, not by the heirs of the original owners.
But the judge said he wanted Gregory’s lawyer, Joseph Blackburn, “to have another shot at it.” So he allowed 21 days for Blackburn to file a new complaint that addresses the issue of standing, and said he would keep the injunction against removing the statue in place indefinitely.
In other words: “You didn’t prove shit but people sure do seem to love their giant ode-to-racism bust, so fuck it.”
Toby J. Heytens, the lawyer from the attorney general’s office, argued that because the plaintiff’s case was dismissed, there was “no basis as a matter of law for obtaining a temporary injunction” and he objected to that injunction being extended.
Unfortunately, Cavedo agreed with Blackburn who said delaying the removal of the Lee monument “is in the public interest” and that “maybe things will cool down in the city of Richmond” by the time of the next hearing which is scheduled for July 23.
“The state seems to think that the monument is the property of the governor,” Cavedo said, the Post reports. “My view is that the monument is the property of the people of the commonwealth, and the governor is more of a custodian or fiduciary on their behalf.”
“ To think the governor could take down the monument to George Washington and the founding fathers on Capitol Square, or the Houdin marble in the rotunda,” he continued. “I don’t think he has any authority to do something like that. It belongs to the people.”
One can only wonder if Cavedo will keep that same energy when “the people” continue to vandalize and tear down Confederate monuments in the state—not that I’m suggesting they do that. Obviously I would never.
It is a shame though. Virginia was starting to look like the picture of progress after Northam announced plans to remove Confederate monuments, and even more so after he declared Juneteenth a paid state holiday on Tuesday. But progress has never come without plenty of conservative resistance. Hopefully, we will still be seeing the Robert E. Lee statue and all the others like it coming down in the near future.