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Virginia Removes 131-Year-Old Robert E. Lee Statue Following Legal Battle

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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The state of Virginia removed a 131-year-old statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Wednesday after winning a lawsuit filed by residents of the state’s capital.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced in June 2020, shortly after the death of George Floyd, that he would seek to have the statue taken down. He said at the time that the statue’s dedication, in 1890, was part of an attempt to “undo the results of the Civil War by other means.”

Northam also requested the removal of a Lee statue gifted by Virginia to the U.S. Capitol. That statue was removed in December 2020.

The Lee statue located in Richmond was part of a memorial to Confederate figures, and included monuments to Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury. The statues of Stuart, Jackson, and Maury were removed by the city in June 2020, and the Davis statue was destroyed by a mob during a Black Lives Matter protest. (RELATED: Richmond Mayor Uses Emergency Powers To Immediately Remove Confederate Statues)

A statue of tennis legend and Richmond native Arthur Ashe, also located on the Monument Avenue grounds, was defaced with “White Lives Matter” graffiti, shortly after the Stuart, Jackson, Davis, and Maury statues were removed.

Richmond residents sued to block the removal of the Lee statue, arguing that the state was required to maintain the statue as part of an 1889 acquisition agreement. Virginia’s state Supreme Court ruled Sept. 2 that a descendant of a couple who gifted the statue to the state had no legal property interest in maintaining the statue. It ruled similarly against a group of local property owners.

Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring described the removal as part of a “momentous day” in a statement.

“For over 130 years, the Lee statue has stood as a daily reminder of a racist past, but that past does not define the Virginia of today, or the Virginia of tomorrow,” he said.

The statue was cut into multiple pieces for transportation purposes. They will be held by the state until officials can reach a final decision on what to do with them, Politico reported.