Virginia to take down Robert E. Lee statue

The Commonwealth of Virginia announced it would remove the 12-tonne bronze statue on Monument Avenue on Sept 8, 2021. PHOTO: VCLATVCU/TWITTER

VIRGINIA (REUTERS) - A statue of Confederate Civil War general Robert E. Lee that towers six stories over Richmond, Virginia, and was a centrepiece of protests over racial injustice, is coming down this week.

The Commonwealth of Virginia announced on Sunday (Sept 5) that it would remove the 12-tonne bronze statue on Monument Avenue on Wednesday, stashing it in a secure state-owned storage site until a decision on its future is finalised.

The statue's scheduled takedown in the capital city comes just days after the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Governor Ralph Northam could remove it because documents controlling its location were outdated.

Mr Northam, a Democrat, had announced plans to remove the statue in June last year, 10 days after a white Minneapolis policeman killed Mr George Floyd, who was black, sparking nationwide protests.

Statues honouring leaders of the pro-slavery Confederate side in the American Civil War have become a focus of protests against racism in recent years.

Lawsuits seeking to block the removal were filed by nearby residents who said they had a property right to keep the statue in place and it should be left alone. The court disagreed, saying the documents that controlled the statue's location were outdated and unenforceable.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said whatever replaces the Lee statue should send the clear message that "Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy. We are a diverse, open and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect that reality". The six-storey tall statue sits on a 12m granite pedestal, which will remain in place as the community reimagines Monument Avenue, a tourist draw in the Confederacy's former capital.

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