When Governor Ralph Northam announced last June that the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Va., was going to be removed, we knew racists wouldn’t let it go down without a fight.
First, a land deed led a judge to grant a temporary injunction to Northam’s order.
Then another Virginia judge said it was fine to remove the statue pending appeals.
Then the Supreme Court of Virginia agreed to hear those appeals.
Well on Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state can remove the statue, which has loomed over Monument Avenue for more than 100 years.
Governor Northam filed a motion for the statue’s removal from the state capital 10 days after George Floyd’s death, during the protests against racism and police brutality happening in the city. According to NPR, the statue became the subject of a protest movement in Virginia and its base is now covered with graffiti.
Richmond used to be the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War so naturally, two lawsuits filed by racist white Virginia residents attempted to block the removal of the large bronze statue honoring a loud and proud bigot.
Separate lawsuits were filed by a group of residents who own property near the statue and a descendant of signatories to the 1890 deed that transferred the statue, pedestal and land they sit on to the state.
Descendant William Gregory argued that the state agreed to “faithfully guard” and “affectionately protect” the statue. And five property owners argued that the governor is bound by a 1889 joint resolution of the Virginia General Assembly that accepted the statue and agreed to maintain it as a monument to Lee.
During a hearing before the Supreme Court on June 8, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the Virginia Constitution does not grant the governor the authority to remove the statue. But Attorney General Mark Herring’s office said a small group of private citizens cannot force the state to maintain a monument that no longer reflects its values.
The governor had already begun planning for the removal prior to the lawsuits. Plans included a time capsule thought to be tucked inside the base of the statue and what to do with the pedestal. There hasn’t been an announcement for when removal will begin. NPR reports that racial justice advocates want the pedestal to stay behind as a symbol of the protest movement.
According to the Associated Press, the justices sided with the governor, saying that it’s now a symbol of racial injustice and the “restrictive covenants” in the 1887 and 1890 deeds for the statue no longer apply.
“The essence of our republican form of government is for the sovereign people to elect representatives, who then chart the public policy of the Commonwealth or of the Nation. Democracy is inherently dynamic. Values change and public policy changes, too. The Government of the Commonwealth is entitled to select the views that it supports and the values that it wants to express,” Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn wrote in the ruling, according to AP.
Let’s hope this is the last time we have to write about this damn statue.