RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to take down Richmond’s Robert E. Lee statue has come to a halt. A Richmond judge has placed a temporary injunction on the monument for 10 days. The order went into effect Monday.
In a news conference Tuesday, Northam repeated his statement that the statue is divisive and needs to come down.
The lawsuit was filed by William Gregory, a descendant of the monument’s original donor, according to the Monument Avenue Preservation Group on Facebook. Gregory claims the state cannot take down the statue.
The judge ruled that the monument’s deed from 1890 says the Commonwealth of Virginia agreed to “faithfully guard” and “affectionately protect” the monument, according to court documents. The judge also ruled that it is in the public’s interest to halt the process.
Heidi Crapol has lived just a few miles from the Lee statue for more than 20 years and told 8News she thinks it is time the monument comes down.
“I was a little dismayed and hopefully this won’t be a prolonged process, understanding that we do have to work through a process, but I trust that leadership will expedite it,” Crapol said, speaking about the temporary injunction.
Steve Nuckolls lives near the monument and is president of the Historic Monument Avenue and Fan District Foundation, which promotes the development of the area.
“When it comes to deeds, the land book, the Commonwealth of Virginia, you can’t take that lightly, so I think the governor needs to evaluate that and figure out what their options are,” Nuckolls said about the injunction.
Nuckolls would like to see a compromise with the statue. “We’re not defending confederate statues, that’s not how I see that. We’re trying to defend and preserve Monument Avenue even though there’s obviously some baggage with it,” he told 8News.
Nuckolls believes context and other types of monuments can be added to Monument Avenue to create an “outdoor museum” and help drive tourism.
However, Nuckolls said he would help how he can with whatever the Lee monument’s future holds. “We just are really welcoming all ideas to make Monument (Avenue) work, whether they all go away tomorrow or they remain or something in between,” Nuckolls said.
Blackburn, Conte, Schilling & Click, P.C., the law firm representing Gregory in the case, sent the following statement to 8News:
For the past 48 years, our firm has dedicated itself to the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a firm, we take seriously our obligation to represent clients and handle cases even when those cases are controversial or unpopular. Our legal system works best when every client is zealously represented. Our lawyers have accepted court appointments in controversial cases where other lawyers would not. We have put in countless hours of pro bono representation, including offering pro bono representation to those arrested in the recent protests. We do not accept or refuse a case based on our personal beliefs. We believe that every client deserves proper legal representation, and we will present each case to the Court, allow the Court to make a reasoned decision, and respect the ruling of the Court.”Blackburn, Conte, Schilling & Click, P.C.
Council for the governor’s office said they have been preparing for this for over a year and are ready to defend their position.