Robert E. Lee statue taken down in Richmond, Virginia

A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was removed from its pedestal in Virginia’s capital city Wednesday morning. The 21-foot-tall statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond was one of the largest remaining Confederate monuments in the U.S. — and has long drawn protests as a symbol of racial injustice.

It took crews roughly an hour to remove the statue from its 40-foot pedestal, according to CBS affiliate WTVR. Large crowds cheered as they watched the statue come down from its prominent spot in the city that served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. 

Richmond, Virginia Removes Statue Of Confederate General Robert E. Lee
Crews remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, September 8, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia.  Steve Helber / Getty Images

In a statement, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam noted that the statue of Lee was the last Confederate statue remaining on Monument Avenue. Officials in Richmond have removed more than a dozen other Confederate statues on city land over the past year.

“The public monuments reflect the story we choose to tell about who we are as a people,” Northam said. “It is time to display history as history, and use the public memorials to honor the full and inclusive truth of who we are today and in the future.”

The governor had announced plans to remove the statue in 2020, shortly after nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice broke out following the murder of George Floyd. Many, including Northam, have described the statue as one that symbolizes the hate that millions were protesting against. 

Its removal was delayed by court challenges, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled last week that the state could go ahead with plans to take it down.

The statue was erected in 1890, “during a time in which southern states were working to reinforce white supremacist systems and structures,” Northam’s statement says. 

The 13-ton bronze statue will have to be cut into pieces to be able to fit under highway overpasses. 
It is set to be put in secure storage at a state facility until officials can find a permanent home for it. 

The 40-foot-tall granite pedestal that held the statue will remain for the time being while officials figure out what to do with it. Some racial justice advocates have suggested keeping the now graffiti-covered pedestal in place as a symbol of the protest movement. 

A similar statue of Lee and one of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were taken down in Charlottesville, Virginia, in July. That was site of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in which Heather Heyer, a peaceful counter-protester, was killed. 

Zyahna Bryant, who had started a petition for the Charlottesville statue to be removed in 2016, while she was still in high school, told CBSN following its removal that taking down Confederate statues does not erase history, as opponents have argued. Rather, she said, “erecting these monuments is whitewashing our history.” 

“It’s a monumental first step, but it’s only a first step,” she told CBSN. “…We’re no longer offering a platform for white supremacy.” 

Charlottesville removes Confederate statues 05:33