Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Thursday that the state will remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond's historic Monument Avenue.

Why it matters: It's a watershed moment for Virginia, which has been at the center of a years-long national debate about whether Confederate monuments should be displayed publicly. That discussion reached a boiling point when protests about a statue of Lee in Charlottesville turned violent in 2017.

  • The issue has been reignited after six days of protests in Virginia's capital over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd and broader issues of systemic racism.
  • Northam said he will direct the Department of General Services to remove the statue and place it into storage "as soon as possible," and that the state will "work with the community to determine its future."

What they're saying:

"In 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people. Yes, that statue has been there for a long time. But it was wrong then, and it is wrong now. So we’re taking it down. I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way. I believe that when we learn more, we can do more. And I believe that when we learn more — when we take that honest look at our past — we must do more than just talk about the future."
— Gov. Northam

The big picture: Civil rights activists in the state have said the statue, as well as other Confederate iconography, pays deference to America's legacy of slavery and racism. Others have argued they represent Southern history and heritage.

  • Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said on Tuesday he would introduce an ordinance to remove four other famous statues honoring the Confederacy.
  • "[T]imes have changed, and removing these statues will allow the healing process to begin for so many Black Richmonders and Virginians," Stoney said. "Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy — it is filled with diversity and love for all — and we need to demonstrate that.”

Go deeper

Updated Aug 19, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on the future of the Democratic party

DNC week: On Wednesday, August 20 Axios co-founder Mike Allen hosted a conversation on the future of the Democratic Party, featuring Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), DNC Chair Tom Perez, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

Mayor Levar Stoney unpacked his efforts to remove confederate statues and monuments in Richmond and the racist historical legacy they represent.

  • On taking down confederate iconography: "We should be ashamed of these monuments. We should be ashamed of these symbols as Americans...I know in 2020 that my city is better than that. I know my state is better than that. And I definitely know that my country is better than that."

Sen. Cory Booker discussed the historic 2020 election ticket, his vision for how communities can expand their view of what makes safe neighborhoods, and how to maintain transparency and accountability in governance.

  • On the nomination of Sen. Kamala Harris as VP: "I think it's this feeling of affirmation that for the first time since the founding of this nation, I can look up at that historic ticket and see myself."
  • On rethinking community safety and situations where law enforcement gets involved: "We need to...treat mental illness not with jail or prison, but with help and health care. Those kinds of things ultimately reduce violence, make us safe, safer, but more importantly, elevate human well-being and human flourishing."

Gov. Phil Murphy broke down New Jersey's COVID-19 response and highlighted which successful efforts could be replicated by other states.

  • On his advice for other state governments: "I think history will not judge you harshly if you overcorrect, if you are too aggressive with this virus. I think we will all be judged, on the other hand, very harshly if you under-correct, if you underestimated."

Tom Perez stressed the importance of getting out the vote for the fall election and discussed the efforts undertaken by the Democratic party to uphold voting rights.

  • On the Democratic party's voter protection efforts: "We've never had a more robust voter protection operation than we do now...The reason for this is that Donald Trump has been very, very clear — [he's] going to try to make it harder for eligible people to vote. [The Trump campaign] doesn't want everyone to vote. They want less people to vote. That's their only formula for success: suppressing the vote."
  • On the 2020 election and the historic Democratic ticket: "This is history-making. And so many levels, shattering the gender glass ceiling, shattering the racial glass ceiling...This is historic, but it will be only a historical footnote unless we win."

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Amy Coney Barrett sworn in as Supreme Court justice

Amy Coney Barrett took the constitutional oath to serve as a Supreme Court justice at a White House ceremony Monday night, not long after the Senate voted to confirm her nomination to the high court in a 52-48 vote.

The state of play: Justice Clarence Thomas administered the oath. The Supreme Court wrote in a statement that Barrett will take the judicial oath on Tuesday, at which point she will be able to begin her work on the court.

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