Falling monuments: A week of change in Virginia

Local News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The debate over whether Confederate statues preserve history or promote hate continues in the Commonwealth after a week that saw several signs of change.

Monuments have been vandalized, toppled and even removed in the past week. In Richmond alone, three statues have fallen since Saturday night.

Confederate statue toppled in Monroe Park

Saturday, Jun. 6

  • Statue of Confederate General Williams Carter Wickham in Monroe Park on Saturday night
  • The Confederate statue of General Williams Carter Wickham in Monroe Park on Sunday, June 7, 2020

Following a day of peaceful protests, a group of people pulled down the Confederate statue of General Williams Carter Wickham in Monroe Park on Saturday night.

Kim Gray, city councilwoman and a director of the Monroe Park Conservancy, said the conservancy leases the park from the city to take care of it. She said the family of General Wickham had requested the statue be taken down but the conservancy didn’t have the authority to do so.

Gray said they’ve been quietly working through the process of removing the statue. This would have been possible due to a law that goes into effect July 1, which gives localities authority over monuments.

Gray said they found a museum that is willing to take the Wickham statue.  

Read the full story here.

Removal of Lee statue blocked for 10 days

Monday, Jun. 8

Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia
Demonstrators at the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2020. Protestors graffitied the monument in recent days and on Wednesday evening, an image of George Floyd and the phrases, “No justice, no peace” and “BLM” were projected onto the monument. (Photo: Jordan Vance)

While Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the Robert E. Lee Monument to be removed as soon as possible on June 4, a Richmond judge placed a temporary injunction on the monument for 10 days that went into effect Monday, Jun. 8.

The lawsuit was filed by William Gregory, a descendant of the monument’s original donor, according to the Monument Avenue Preservation Group’s Facebook page. Gregory claims the state cannot take down the statue.

The judge said the Commonwealth of Virginia agreed to “faithfully guard” and “affectionately protect” the monument in its 1890 deed, according to court documents. The judge ruled that it is in the public’s interest to pause the process.

Read the full story here.

State inspected Lee Monument as part of removal process

  • America Protests Confederate Monuments
  • Confederate Monuments Richmond

The Department of General Services inspected the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond Monday morning.

The department said they sent crews to inspect the statue as part of the planning process to remove it safely and as soon as possible.

“I think in the long run, I would much rather have these monuments taken down appropriately by the people who should take them down but I’m also acutely aware that people are tired, people are frustrated,” said Robert W. Lee IV, a descendant of Robert E. Lee, to 8News on Monday. He actively supports the monuments being removed. 

Read the full story here.

Christopher Columbus statue toppled and thrown in lake

Tuesday, Jun. 9

  • Columbus statue
  • Statue
  • Christopher Columbus statue

Witnesses said protesters used three ropes to pull down the Christopher Columbus statue in Byrd Park at about 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

After the statue fell, protesters dragged the sculpture into a nearby lake. 8News spoke with one protester who admitted to helping knock down the statue. The protester says the action was not planned but a cumulation of built-up frustration and chants to “tear it down.”

Crews removed the statue from the water around 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday and it was driven away on the back of a tow truck.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney responded to the statue being torn down on Twitter after it was retrieved

Read the full story here.

Jefferson Davis statue torn down

Wednesday, Jun. 10

  • Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue pulled down
  • Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue pulled down
  • Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue pulled down

The Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue was torn down Wednesday night.

Police responded to the incident and a heavy law enforcement presence remained as bystanders watched the toppled statue be towed away around 11:45 p.m., eliciting roars from the crowd.

Richmond Police told 8News that no one was hurt while the statue was being torn down. There were no related arrests. Richmond Police asked anyone with information to contact Richmond Crime Stoppers.

Read the full story here.

Protesters took down pieces of Portsmouth’s Confederate monument; one person injured.

On Wednesday night, protesters in Portsmouth tore down parts of a Confederate monument.

That afternoon around 2:14 p.m., Black Lives Matter 757 tweeted a video that shows a group of people spray painting the Portsmouth monument. The Twitter account announced a planned “Remove the Stain” rally at the monument that night.

At 8 p.m., protesters climbed on the monument and continued to add to the paint. At 8:30 p.m., they began tearing off pieces of the monument.

One man was critically injured around 9:15pm after being hit by the fallen statue, WAVY News 10’s Brett Hall reported.

Read the full story here.

Gov. Northam warns individuals taking down statues is dangerous

Thursday, Jun. 11

At a press conference on Thursday, Northam asked Virginians to let statues be removed safely.

“I know these statues are causing a lot of pain, but pulling them down is not worth risking someone’s life,” Northam said. “So, let the local governments take the responsibility for taking these statues down safely.”

The governor also said that he has expanded and extended the term of the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law, a panel tasked with inspecting racially discriminatory language in the Acts of Assembly and the Code of Virginia.

The expansion now authorizes the commission to “identify current state laws and regulations that create or perpetuate inequities, propose changes to increase protections for minority and marginalized Virginians, and provide policy recommendations for state agencies and institutions,” according to a release from Northam’s office.

Johnny Reb statue in Norfolk taken down

Friday, Jun. 12

“Taking down statues is easy, but the hard work of overturning generations of hate, inequality, and injustice remains ahead of us,” Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander said. “Addressing massive social and economic impact of the legacy of racism will require all of us to work together.”

Norfolk’s 113-year-old “Johnny Reb” Confederate statue was swiftly taken down from its pedestal in downtown in Norfolk on Friday morning. It was the first step in the process of removing the entire monument.

The removal came less than 48 hours after protesters dismantled the Confederate monument in Norfolk’s sister city of Portsmouth.

Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander announced Thursday night that the statue would be coming down “within 24 hours” weather-permitting. “Johnny Reb” stood at the top of an 80-foot Confederate monument, which will be removed after a July 7 public hearing.

“Taking down statues is easy, but the hard work of overturning generations of hate, inequality, and injustice remains ahead of us,” Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander said. “Addressing massive social and economic impact of the legacy of racism will require all of us to work together.”

Read the full story here.

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