Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves a Virginia Judge and his ruling to keep a Confederate statue at a public building.
A judge has extended an injunction that prevents the governor from removing the iconic statue of Robert E. Lee from state property on Monument Avenue, giving opponents more time to prove they have standing to challenge the order.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced June 4 that he would remove the Lee statue, which towers 60 feet over Richmond’s grandest residential boulevard, and put it in storage. The action was partly in response to ongoing demonstrations over police brutality against African Americans nationwide, but Richmond has struggled for years over its Confederate iconography.
June 8, Richmond Circuit Judge Bradley B. Cavedo granted a temporary injunction to block the state from taking down the 130 year old statue, responding to a lawsuit filed by a descendant of the couple who signed the deed giving land for the monument to the state.
Cavedo said Thursday that he was not certain whether the descendant, William C. Gregory, had legal standing to file the complaint, noting that the statue “belongs to the people.”
The judge gave Gregory’s lawyer 21 days to address the issue and said more plaintiffs could join the legal challenge. He scheduled another hearing for July 23.
Grgeory’s lawsuit contends that Northam’s effort to take down Lee violates the terms of the deed granting the site to the state in 1890.
Gregory, identified as a great grandson of a couple who were signatories to the deed, argues that the state promised to “affectionately protect” the statue when it annexed the land it stands on from Henrico County.
Joseph Blackburn, the lawyer for Gregory, also filed a letter with the court alleging that “a rumor is circulating in Richmond that an 18 wheel truck is coming to the Lee Monument for the purpose of pulling it down.” He called on the judge and Northam to deploy “the state police and other force as is necessary” to protect the monument.
The General Assembly passed a bill earlier this year that allows localities to remove war memorials on their own property. Northam signed that bill into law, and Richmond’s City Council has said it will act to remove the other four Confederate memorials on Monument Avenue when the law goes into effect July 1.
Northam and Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) have said they would fight the suit all the way to the state Supreme Court if necessary. Herring complained last week that the injunction was issued without even notifying his office that a hearing was being held, and that he learned of it through the media.
On Friday, Herring’s office said that lawyers for Gregory said they were seeking to get the injunction extended, then called back moments later with the judge on the phone. The attorney general then petitioned the court to hold all future hearings in public.