Updated Sep 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Virginia removes Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond

The statue of Robert E. Lee is lowered from its pedestal at Robert E. Lee Memorial during a removal September 8, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia.

The statue of Robert E. Lee is lowered from its pedestal on Sept. 8 in Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Virginia took down Richmond's Robert E. Lee statue on Wednesday, days after the state's Supreme Court paved the way for its removal.

Why it matters: It's the latest Confederate monument to come down following the racial justice protests that erupted after the murder of George Floyd last year. It comes two months after a Lee statue was removed in Charlottesville.

  • The 131-year-old statue is the state's "largest monument to the Confederate insurrection," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement Monday. "This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a commonwealth. "

Catch up quick: The Democratic governor said in June 2020 that he planned to have the statue taken down, but two lawsuits emerged — from five area residents and an heir to the family that initially granted the land for the monument — temporarily blocking its removal, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

  • Virginia's Supreme Court ruled last week that the lawsuits blocking its removal were contrary to policy established by Virginia's General Assembly, adding that the descendant "has no property right, related to the Lee Monument, to enforce against the Commonwealth."

The big picture: More than 300 Confederate symbols, including 170 monuments, have been removed since Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, fatally shot nine Black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, per the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

  • Calls for the removal of Confederate symbols intensified following the murder of Floyd and other police killings last year.
  • More than 1,895 Confederate symbols, including over 690 monuments, however, were still publicly present as of June, according to the SPLC.

Go deeper: Floyd's death set historic pace for Confederate removals

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