Richmond’s Robert E. Lee statue to be removed Wednesday

The largest Confederate statue remaining in the U.S. is in Virginia, and it is slated to be removed on Wednesday.

Following authorization by all three branches of state government, including a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia last Thursday, the 21-foot statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond will be removed.

Crews will remove the plaques from the base of the monument this Thursday and will dig up and replace a time capsule that is believed to be located at the site.

Crews will install protective fencing along Monument Avenue and Allen Street at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The fencing will remain up until everything is removed from the site. The Northam administration has said it would seek public input on the statue’s future.

Once the statue is hoisted off the pedestal, it’s expected to be cut into two pieces for transport, although the final plan is subject to change, said Dena Potter, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of General Services.

The removal will be livestreamed through the governor’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, both of which have the handle of @governorVA.

The Joint Information Center said that all vehicles and pedestrians must be cleared from the area by Tuesday.

The fate of the 40‐foot granite pedestal, and the state-owned property surrounding the monument, will be decided following a re-imagining of Monument Avenue and the pedestal spearheaded by the City of Richmond and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Some racial justice advocates don’t want it removed, seeing the graffiti-covered pedestal as a symbol of the protest movement that erupted after Floyd’s killing.

The statue was ordered removed in June 2020, but legal challenges delayed it until the Supreme Court of Virginia said that the commonwealth had authority to remove the statue.

The statue was created by the internationally renowned French sculptor Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercie. It was installed in 1890, a generation after the Civil War, “during the historical movement that sought to undo the results of the war by other means,” Virginia’s Joint Information Center said in a statement. Five other statues would follow, as part of a housing development along Monument Avenue.

This statue is the only one owned by the commonwealth and the last to be removed.

“Virginia’s largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will come down this week,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in the statement. “This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a Commonwealth.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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