A 12-ton statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, the largest remaining Confederate monument, has been taken down in Richmond. The removal was ordered by Democrat Governor Ralph Northam last year, triggering a bitter court battle.
Worker crews showed up at the equestrian monument early on Wednesday, taking it down from its pedestal with a massive crane. The removal of the statue, which used to be the largest confederate monument still standing in the US, attracted a crowd of onlookers, who cheered as the statue was lifted into the air.
The statue of General Robert E. Lee has been repeatedly vandalized in the last year amid Black Lives Matter protests, with its pedestal scribbled with graffiti and marred in paint. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ultimately ordered its removal back in June 2020.
The decision triggered a lawsuit from residents and a descendant of signatories who granted the deed to the property where the statue stands. The plaintiffs argued the governor lacked the authority to remove the monument and said it should remain in place forever according to the original deed.
The lawsuit ultimately ended up in Virgina’s Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that due to “values changes and public policy changes,” the state had the power to remove the statue if it wished to. The display of the Robert E. Lee statue as a public monument “communicates principles that many believe to be inconsistent with the values the Commonwealth currently wishes to express,” the court argued.