One of the largest Confederate statues still on public display in the US will be removed Wednesday when authorities remove the imposing bronze depiction of General Robert E Lee from Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy.
The statue of Lee on horseback tops a massive granite base that is covered in protest graffiti, and the statue and pedestal have featured images of George Floyd’s face and the letters BLM. projected on them since Floyd’s murder in 2020 by a police officer in Minneapolis.
The protective fence will be erected Tuesday along Monument Avenue in Richmond, where many other Confederate statues have already been removed. Only Lee remains, peering out from the middle of a major roundabout.
On Wednesday, he will remove the bronze statue of the man and the horse, but not the granite base.
Statues of Lee and Confederate General Stonewall Jackson were peacefully removed from Charlottesville in July, from a park where the far-right held a rally in August 2017 that turned into deadly violence against counter-protesters when they marched against neo-Nazis and other extremists.
Lee led Confederate forces during the American Civil War when the South tried to maintain slavery.
Lee’s statue will fall 130 years after its construction and more than a year after the Virginia government tried to remove it, delayed by a legal battle between those who advocate for its preservation and those who criticize it as a symbol of racial injustice.
“Virginia’s largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will collapse this week,” Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said Monday. “This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a community.”
Northam had announced plans to tear down the statue in June last year, 10 days after George Floyd died under the knees of a Minneapolis police officer, sparking national and international protests against police brutality and racism.
Plans were stalled by two lawsuits filed by residents who opposed its removal, but last week’s rulings by the Virginia state supreme court cleared the way for the statue to finally leave.
In Richmond, a city that was the capital of the Confederacy for much of the Civil War, the city has removed more than a dozen other Confederate statues on city grounds since Floyd’s death.
As one of the largest and most recognizable Confederate statues in the country, the removal of Lee’s status is expected to draw large crowds.
The Northam administration has said it will seek public opinion on the future of the statue. The 40-foot granite pedestal will be left behind for now amid efforts to rethink Monument Avenue’s design.
Some advocates of racial justice don’t want it removed, seeing the graffiti-covered pedestal as a symbol of the protest movement that erupted after Floyd’s murder.
Lawrence West, 38, a member of BLM RVA (Black Lives Matter Richmond Virginia), an activist group that has been occupying the space transformed into the Lee memorial, said he believes the decision to remove the statue was prompted by work of the protesters.
“I mean, it hadn’t come down before. They (the Democrats in charge of state government) had every chance in the world. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism