George Floyd protests: Virginia governor to remove state of Confederate general Robert E Lee

Statues honouring Confederate leaders have seen vandalism amid protests against racism 

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 04 June 2020 09:30
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Virginia governor Ralph Northam will announce plans to remove Richmond’s Confederate statue honouring General Robert E. Lee, amid tensions at America’s complicated racial history.

Mr Northam, a Democrat, plans to make the announcement during a news event in Richmond on Thursday, a source in the governor’s office told CNN last night.

“That is a symbol for so many people, black and otherwise, of a time gone by of hate and oppression and being made to feel less than,” said black lawmaker Jay Jones to The Associated Press on Wednesday, who were the first to report on the impending announcement.

Mr Jones, from Norfolk, Virginia, said he was “overcome” with emotion on Wednesday night when he learned the statue was to come down.

The statue, which was unveiled in 1890, had been vandalised with slogans such as “stop white supremacy” during demonstrations against police brutality and the police-involved killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis last week.

The news that Richmond’s largest Confederate statue will be removed comes after repeated calls to dismantle controversial monuments which honour Confederate leaders who supported slavery in the south.

Virginia’s Democratic governor is expected to have the Lee statue lifted from its pedestal and placed into storage while his administration considers a new location, said an official to The Associated Press.

It was not immediately clear when the Lee statue would be removed.

Richmond’s mayor, Levar Stoney, announced earlier on Wednesday that he would remove all five Confederate monuments located on the city’s Monument Avenue.

It comes after Virginia’s governor signed-off on laws that would undo protections for Confederate monuments, and leave local governments to dedicate what to do with them.

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“Times have changed, and removing these statues will allow the healing process to begin for so many Black Richmonders and Virginians,” said Mr Stoney in a statement.

“Richmond is no longer the Capital of the Confederacy – it is filled with diversity and love for all – and we need to demonstrate that,” he added.

The mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, also ordered the removal of a contentious Confederate monument on Wednesday.

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