Over the last five years, a prolonged effort has ensued to remove Confederate statues from public spaces. These efforts have only intensified in recent weeks as protests have spread nationwide over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police. But in Virginia, efforts to remove a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee have been stifled by an agreement made 130 years ago.
According to NBC News, a temporary injunction filed by a Richmond judge has prevented Gov. Ralph Northam from removing the statue. The injunction cites a deed from 1890 in which the state agreed to “faithfully guard” and “affectionately protect” the monument. The lawsuit was filed by William C. Gregory, who the complaint lists as a descendant of two of the signatories to the deed. “(Gregory’s) family has taken pride for 130 years in this statue resting upon land belonging to his family and transferred to the Commonwealth in consideration of the Commonwealth contractually guaranteeing to perpetually care for and protect the Lee Monument,” the lawsuit states.
Gov. Northam ordered that the statue be removed last week, along with four other Confederate monuments, citing the ongoing protests around Floyd’s death as one of the leading factors in his decision. Northam vowed to remove the statue “as soon as possible” and crews have already surveyed the site to determine how to safely remove it. “The massive statue weighs approximately 12 tons, stands 21 feet tall, and has been on a 40-foot pedestal for 130 years. Meticulous planning is required to remove an aging monument of this size and scale safely,” The Department of General Services said in a statement.
Nationwide, monuments to white supremacy have either been removed or defaced. In Alabama, the Confederate soldiers and sailors’ monument in Birmingham was removed. In Fredericksburg, Va., a slave auction block was defaced and eventually removed. A monument to Frank Rizzo, a former Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner known for his racist and homophobic views was defaced by protestors and eventually taken down. Internationally, a video circulated of a group of protesters in the British town of Bristol taking matters into their own hands and throwing a monument to slave trader Edward Colston into the bottom of the harbor.
The injunction filed by the judge only lasts for 10 days, after which it will be decided what happens to the statue of Lee. If one thing is clear here, it’s that white people will continue to do the most to glorify one of the biggest L’s in history.