Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves Virgina Governor to remove a statue from its capital of Richmond.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) plans to announce Thursday that he will remove the towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from its site on Monument Avenue and put it into storage, according to an official in his administration.
Word of the pending announcement set off jubilant roars among thousands gathered at the foot of the edifice Wednesday evening for a sixth straight day of marches protesting police brutality against African Americans. The stone base of the monument has been festooned with colorful graffiti calling for racial justice, with numerous expletives directed at police.
The 14 foot statue atop a nearly 50 foot base has been the emotional core of Richmond since it was unveiled in 1890, first as an icon of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, then as the anchor of the city’s grandest residential district and finally as a passionately debated symbol of racial division.
Northam has supported removal since the deadly Unite the Right white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, but he had long deferred to local sentiment. Previous state law also made it unclear whether the governor had authority to remove a war memorial.
This year’s General Assembly passed, and Northam signed, a law that allows localities to decide whether to take down monuments on city property. Northam appears to have authority to act as well under the new law.
The Richmond City Council has fallen just shy of enough votes to seek removal of the four other Confederate statues on Monument Avenue that are on municipal property. But its mayor Levar Stoney, said Wednesday that he will introduce an ordinance on July 1 to take down the remaining monuments.
“Removing these statues will allow the healing process to begin for so many Black Richmonders and Virginians,” Stoney said in a news release. “Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy it is filled with diversity and love for all and we need to demonstrate that.”
Northam intends to have the Lee statue removed from its base and stored until its fate can be decided, with public input, according to the administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not been announced. Northam will address the subject Thursday morning, as initially reported by the Associated Press.
When news was posted on the Facebook page of the Virginia Flaggers a Confederate heritage group that regularly marches with battle flags on nearby Arthur Ashe Boulevard comments ranged from anguished to disbelieving.
Community leaders who have pushed for a tougher reckoning with the state’s complicated heritage were ecstatic.
“This is huge!!! I’m speechless,” tweeted Christy Coleman, who transformed the city’s American Civil War Museum into a multicultural look at the conflict before becoming head of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation earlier this year.
Coleman, who is African American, co-chaired a commission appointed by Stoney to study the monuments issue after the Charlottesville rally. Their recommendation was to remove the statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and put more context around the others, explaining not only the legacy of slavery but also the Jim Crow-era oppression that went hand-in-hand with erecting many of the monuments.
On Wednesday, as speeches and marching continued into the night, some protesters cautioned against putting too much faith in the removal of a statue.
“We are not here to bring a monument down,” said a man who identified himself only as Q, 23, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. “We are here to bring a system down.”