“The commonwealth of Virginia will remove the largest Confederate statue remaining in the United States – the statue of Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond – on Wednesday, September 8, following authorization by all three branches of state government, including a unanimous decision last week by the Supreme Court of Virginia,” the state announced in a press release Monday.
The move comes after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in a 7-0 decision last week that the statue could be removed. The decision followed lawsuits against Gov. Ralph Northam last year, claiming that the deed that transferred the statue to the state came with an agreement that the state would “faithfully guard” and “affectionately protect” the statue forever.
“Those restrictive covenants are unenforceable as contrary to public policy and for being unreasonable because their effect is to compel … the Commonwealth to express, in perpetuity, a message with which it now disagrees,” the justices wrote in their decision.
The state justified its decision to remove the statue by arguing that it was installed as part of a movement that “sought to undo the results of the war.”
“The statue 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,” the statement reads. “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 is the last to be removed.”
Northam made the decision to remove the statue days after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. He hailed the court’s decision to finally allow for its removal as a “tremendous win for the people of Virginia.”
“Virginia’s largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will come down this week,” Northam said in a statement. “This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a Commonwealth.”
Northam’s administration said it will seek public input on the future of the statue.
“The statue will be placed in a secure storage at a state-owned facility until a decision is made as to its disposition,” the statement said.