Update: A statue of Robert E. Lee that stood in Richmond, Va., for 131 years has come down. The Times-Dispatch reports it was hoisted off its pedestal to cheers at 8:55am. The AP, which calls it one of America’s largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, reports it will be divided into pieces and moved to a secure location "until its final disposition is determined." Our original story follows:
The last statue on Monument Avenue commemorating the Civil War and the time Richmond,
Va., was the capital of the Confederacy is coming down. The statue of Robert E. Lee has been a prominent fixture in the southern city for 131 years, lately as a site of protest of the state’s racist past and police killings of Black people. The area around the statue will be carefully controlled until the statue is removed—even the airspace. Drones will be banned for two nautical miles around the traffic circle where the Lee statue sits, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. "Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy. We are a diverse, open, and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect this reality,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said in a statement Monday.
Other Confederate statues controlled by the city are gone. Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans to remove the Lee statue in June 2020, but was prevented by lawsuits brought by some Richmond residents, and by a man claiming he’s the surviving heir of the person who gave the land the statue sits on under the condition the statue be “affectionately” protected, CNN reports. The Virginia Supreme Court rejected both suits, clearing the way to move the statue into storage, where it will remain until Virginia figures out what to do with it. The pedestal, now frosted with graffiti after civil rights protests during the summer of 2020, will remain, per the Times-Dispatch.
The governor will livestream the removal of the statue on both Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday morning. Rethinking the message an old statue broadcasts is not unique to the US. A statue of Christopher Columbus was taken from its plinth in Mexico City last year, and will be moved to a park. A statue of an Olmec woman will take its place, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said. She announced the plan Sunday at a ceremony celebrating the international day of the indigenous woman, the BBC reports. Sculptor Pedro Reyes is currently working on a statue of a woman from the ancient civilization that flourished in Mexico until 400 BC. (Read more Confederate statues stories.)