Governor Wants 'Divisive Symbol' Gone, Judge Says Hold Up

Attempt to remove Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Va., is temporarily blocked
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2020 11:29 AM CDT
Robert E. Lee Statue Is Staying Put For Now
People gather at the Robert E. Lee Monument, now covered by protest graffiti, in Richmond, Va., on Sunday.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northham last week ordered the removal of an iconic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond "as soon as possible"—but now a judge is saying not so fast. On Monday, a judge in the former capital of the Confederacy issued a temporary injunction blocking the state from tearing down the 130-year-old statue on Monument Avenue—a site of recent protests—for 10 days after a complaint was lodged, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "It is in the public interest to await resolution of this case on the merits prior to removal of the statue ... and the public interest weighs in favor of maintaining the status quo," the injunction reads. The judge also noted "a likelihood of irreparable harm to the statue" if it's removed.

William Gregory, a descendant of a donor of the Lee Monument Fund, lodged a complaint earlier Monday, citing an 1890 deed stating the statue was "guaranteed" state protection, per the Progress-Index. A Northam rep says he "remains committed to removing this divisive symbol" on state land "and we're confident in his authority to do so." With support from one of Lee's own descendants, officials had inspected the statue Monday in anticipation of its removal. The state's Department of General Services noted it would be quite an undertaking, as the statue resting on a 40-foot pedestal is 21 feet tall and weighs roughly 12 tons. Richmond officials have vowed to remove four other Confederate memorials on city land along Monument Avenue. (Another Virginia city just removed its slave auction block.)

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