More than 50 Lee monument neighbors join the fight to take it down

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Dozens of people living “within eyesight” of the Robert E. Lee monument are joining the fight to take the statue down, according to Richmond attorney Greg Werkheiser. He is representing the group.

Werkheiser said he’s planning to file a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of more than 50 residents arguing to take the monument down. This comes as a smaller group of nearby residents are pushing against the removal in court.

On Tuesday, a Richmond judge ruled that Governor Ralph Northam can take the monument down.
On Thursday, the group of about five neighbors fighting to keep the monument up appealed that decision to the Virginia Supreme court.

The attorney said the group he’s representing wants the court to know where a majority of neighbors stand on the issue. “They have concluded that they want a new Monument Avenue. They want a neighborhood that’s welcoming,” Werkheiser told 8News Friday. The firm is planning to file the brief pro-bono, he said.

Werkheiser helps run the Cultural Heritage Partners law firm with offices in Shockoe Bottom. According to the attorney, the group is calling themselves “Circle Neighbors”. Since racial justice protests erupted at the end of May and through the summer, the area surrounding the Lee monument has been coined “Marcus David-Peters Circle” by some.

The number of people joining the cause is growing, he said. “We’re getting calls roughly on the hour now from neighbors who are hearing about this and want to join as well. Right now, the 50 folks who have joined represent really most of the key houses in the immediate neighborhood.” According to the attorney, the brief’s goal is to show the court that while a handful people in the area are fighting to keep it up, a majority of neighbors, some who’ve lived near the monument for decades, want it down.

He said the plan is to file the brief in a couple of weeks, as the case makes its way to the Supreme Court of Virginia. “It’s time for residents like my clients to stand up and be heard as well. And say this is not just the mayor acting, this is a sea change in the perspective of the community. and that’s what we hope the court takes from it.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney ordered all of the city’s confederate monuments be removed over the summer. The general assembly gave localities that authority in a new law this year.

Briefs like this one need approval from the court. On the phone with 8News Friday, Patrick McSweeney, the attorney representing the neighbors who want the statue to stay, noted that the group does not yet have that approval. He said “there will be lots of people planning to file amicus briefs on all sides.” McSweeney didn’t comment any further.

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