The city of Richmond has made good on its promise to take down all the Confederate statues along Monument Avenue, starting Wednesday afternoon with the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue.
Mayor Levar Stoney cited “emergency powers” in ordering the removal of the four city-owned memorials along the iconic Richmond avenue. Citizens gathered around the spot where the Jackson statue stood for many years to watch city workers hoist the bronze memorial off of its stone pedestal tagged with graffiti ever since the unrest in Richmond began several weeks ago.
Monument Avenue has served as a sort of epicenter for protests calling for equality in racial justice. For weeks, protesters on both sides of the issue have congregated at the memorials staging rallies and in some instances clashing with Richmond Police.
The removals are not a surprise. Richmond officials announced last month that they would pass an ordinance in conjunction with newly enacted state law allowing localities reign over Confederate monuments located on public property.
But on Wednesday, Stoney declared an emergency exists along Monument Avenue that warrants immediate takedown.
“Failing to remove the statues now poses a severe, immediate and growing threat to public safety,” Stoney said in a statement via Yahoo News. “For the last 33 consecutive days, people have been gathering in large numbers in our city. And as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge and protesters attempt to take down Confederate statues themselves or confront others who are also doing so, the risk grows for serious illness, injury or death.”
The Jackson statue, erected in 1919, was located at the intersection of Monument Avenue and Arthur Ashe Boulevard. Other Confederate monuments on the avenue commemorate former Confederate president Jefferson Davis, Confederate navy Admiral Matthew Fontaine Maury and Confederate army General James E.B. Stuart.
On the evening of June 10, the Davis statue was taken down by protesters and dragged to the edge of the grassy median where it stood for 113 years.
The fifth Confederate monument, honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee, is owned by the state. Gov. Ralph S. Northam has ordered it to be taken down, but a reported descendant of one of the benefactors of the statue successfully sought an injunction blocking anything to be done with it.
As expected, partisan bickering over the removals began just as the work was beginning.
“This is a historic day for our Commonwealth,” said Grant Fox, communications director for the Democratic Party of Virginia. “The symbolism of these monuments being removed in what was once the capitol of the Confederacy cannot be understated. I’m looking forward to seeing other cities across Virginia remove their Confederate monuments as well.”
Republican state Sen. Amanda F. Chase, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor next year, called Stoney “a disgrace” for ordering the removal, otwhich was taking place just as severe thunderstorms began rolling through central Virginia. The weather issue was not lost on Chase.
“What a disingenuous joke,” Chase noted in a Facebook post. “If you don’t like Virginia, resign and move.”
The Progress-Index has staff on site in Richmond covering the removals and getting reactions. Look for Twitter updates throughout the evening and a wrap-up of the events onThursday. Contributing to the coverage are staff writers Sean Jones and Leilia Magee, and former P-I digital editor Scott P. Yates.
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