Oct 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Richmond's last Confederate statue can be removed, judge rules

The statue of Robert E. Lee is lowered during a removal on Sept. 8, 2021, in Richmond, Va. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The last Confederate monument in Richmond, Virginia, could soon be coming down following a judge's ruling.

Driving the news: A Virginia circuit court judge ruled this week that the city has the right to dismantle the statue of Ambrose P. Hill, which has stood over his remains since 1892, per the New York Times.

The big picture: More than two years after Richmond — the site of massive protests in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd — began its reckoning with Confederate iconography, legal battles over removing statues have continued.

  • Eleven Confederate statues in Richmond have been disassembled or pulled down by protesters since then, the Free Lance-Star reports.
  • But the removal of Hill's statue, a process that stalled because it's also his gravesite, would mark the end of Confederate statues dotted across the city that was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Details: The general's remains will be reburied at a cemetery in Culpeper, according to the ruling.

  • The statue will be donated to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

What they're saying: "This is the last stand for the Lost Cause in our city," Mayor Levar Stoney said regarding the post-Civil War movement by former Confederates to justify the Confederacy.

The other side: Those who wanted Hill's statue to remain in place argued that removing it would violate the state's Constitution by encroaching on the Legislature’s powers, per the Times.

  • They also argued that removing it defied agreements from the 19th century, including one that required the commonwealth to "faithfully guard" the monument, the Times reports.

Meanwhile, Hill’s indirect descendants did not object to removing the statue or reburying the remains. But they opposed the statue being donated to the museum, saying they only had the right to decide what to do with it.

  • However, Judge D. Eugene Cheek Sr. disagreed in his ruling last week, saying the statue couldn't belong to them because it never belonged to Hill himself.
  • Cheek added that Hill's descendants have the right to appeal, though the Hill family's lawyer told the Free Lance-Star that he was unsure if they would.
  • A decision to appeal Cheek's ruling would delay the statue being taken down.

Zoom out: The murder of George Floyd sparked the removal, relocation or renaming of at least 200 memorials in 2020, Axios' TuAnh Dam reports.

  • The following year, another 73 Confederate statues across the country were removed or renamed in the wake of protests against police violence and racism.
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