Virginia Supreme Court Clears Path for Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue

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U.S.|Virginia Supreme Court Clears Path for Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue

Two unanimous rulings let Gov. Ralph Northam to region the statue from its salient spot connected Monument Avenue successful Richmond.

The statue of Robert E. Lee connected  Monument Avenue successful  Richmond, Va.
Credit...Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

Sept. 2, 2021Updated 2:36 p.m. ET

Virginia’s Supreme Court connected Thursday unanimously affirmed the powerfulness of Gov. Ralph Northam to region an imposing statue of Robert E. Lee successful Richmond, a awesome that had go a people of demonstrators aft the decease of George Floyd past year.

Mr. Northam had announced his volition to person the statue removed from Monument Avenue successful June 2020, little than 2 weeks aft Mr. Floyd’s decease successful constabulary custody successful Minneapolis.

Defenders of the monument challenged Mr. Northam successful court, arguing that his bid violated Virginia’s Constitution by encroaching connected the Legislature’s powers and that it defied agreements dating to the precocious 1880s that guaranteed the statue would stay successful a nationalist space.

But the authorities Supreme Court delivered 2 unanimous decisions successful the governor’s favour connected Thursday. Even if those agreements had created “restrictive covenants,” the justices wrote, they were “unenforceable” due to the fact that their effect was “to compel authorities speech, by forcing the Commonwealth to express, successful perpetuity, a connection with which it present disagrees.”

Mr. Northam, a Democrat, welcomed the outcome.

“Today’s ruling is simply a tremendous triumph for the radical of Virginia,” helium said successful a statement. “Our nationalist memorials are symbols of who we are and what we value. When we grant leaders who fought to sphere a strategy that enslaved quality beings, we are honoring a mislaid origin that has burdened Virginia for excessively galore years.”

He added, “Today it is clear: The largest Confederate monument successful the South is coming down.”

In the weeks aft Mr. Floyd’s decease successful May 2020, nationwide protests opposing systemic racism and constabulary unit against Black radical focused attraction connected monuments to the Confederacy and humanities figures linked to slavery. Demonstrators pulled down immoderate monuments. Local lawmakers ordered the removal of others.

In June 2020, for example, protesters successful Richmond toppled a statue of Jefferson Davis connected Monument Avenue. A period later, the metropolis of Richmond removed 3 statues of Confederate figures on the avenue. Also that July, “a life-sized statue of Lee and 7 busts depicting different ex-Confederates” were ordered to beryllium removed from the State Capitol.

On Thursday, Virginia officials said they had been waiting months for this moment. The rulings let the Department of General Services to statesman executing a program to region the statue.

“This process is analyzable by respective logistical and information concerns, including thoroughfare closures and the instrumentality required to guarantee the harmless removal of the 12-ton statue,” a connection from Mr. Northam’s bureau said. “Ultimately removal of the statue volition beryllium a multi-day process; portion crews are moving quickly, nary enactment connected the statue is expected this week.”

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