In the wake of nationwide protests fighting for justice for George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by police, the push to remove Confederate monuments has been reignited.
With over 200 Confederate monuments, Virginia has the most memorials of any state in the country. Legislators, Black community leaders and civil rights advocates have been fighting for years to have them taken down, citing the effigies as cruel iconography of the nation’s shameful past.
Earlier in the year, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill that finally gives cities and towns the power to dismantle confederate monuments at the their discretion, starting July 1. Under this law, a public hearing by the council is required before the monument can be removed.
If the council approves the legislation, private organizations like museums will have a 30-day window to submit a plan of their own. Afterwards, the locality can either choose to give the monument away or move it themselves.
Here is a breakdown of the cities who’ve either removed or announced their plans to remove monuments.
UPDATE (June 11): Protesters tore down a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis along Richmond, Virginia’s famed Monument Avenue on Wednesday night.
The statue in the former capital of the Confederacy was toppled shortly before 11 p.m. Richmond police were on the scene and videos on social media showed the monument being towed away as a crowd cheered.
UPDATE (June 10): The Christopher Columbus statue was taken down by protesters on Tuesday night. Around 9 p.m. in Byrd Park, demonstrators pulled down the statue following a protest in honor of indigenous people. After being torn down, the statue was spray painted, set on fire and then put in the lake.
Work crews recovered the statue from the lake Wednesday morning. Some people in attendance voiced their approval of the statue’s removal.
“I think it sends a really good message to these people, Columbus and the Confederate Monuments, these memorials to these objectively bad people have been up for way too long and it’s past time to take them down,” said Melissa Hudson who was at the park while the statue was pulled from the lake.
So far, no arrests have been made.
UPDATE (June 8): Crews are headed to inspect Richmond’s Robert E. Lee monument before its removal. According to state officials, the memorial won’t be moved on Monday, but they say the plan it to remove the statue as soon as possible.
“The massive statue weighs approximately 12 tons, stands 21 feet tall, and has been on a 40-foot pedestal for 130 years,” the Virginia Department of General Services said in a statement. “Meticulous planning is required to remove an aging monument of this size and scale safely.”
Over the weekend, another Confederate statue in Richmond was pulled down from its pedestal in Monroe Park by a small group of protesters, according to the Richmond Police Department. The statue was of Gen. Williams Carter Wickham.
It is unclear if the statue will be removed by Mayor Levar Stoney’s ordinance on July 1.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Thursday that the state-owned 130-year-old bronze depiction of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is to be removed from its pedestal on Monument Ave.
Northam has directed that six-story tall statue to be put into storage while his administration seeks advice from the community on a new location and what could serve as a replacement.
“When a young child looks up and sees something that big and prominent, she knows it must be important. When it’s the biggest thing around, it sends a clear message: This is what we value most,” Northam said during a press conference Thursday. “That’s not true anymore.”
Mayor Levar Stoney also announced on Thursday that he plans to introduce an ordinance as soon as July 1 that would remove five other statues from Richmond’s Monument Ave.
“We have two pandemics in our country right now: COVID-19 and racism,” Stoney said during the conference. “One is six months old, the other is 400 years old. Both are lethal especially for black and brown people.”
The statues, located on Monument Avenue’s two mile stretch of land, depict Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Matthew Fontaine Maury.
UPDATE (June 12): Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander had the city’s Confederate statues removed early Friday morning. The city had already planned to take down the statue, but the mayor sped up the timeline one day after a man in his 30s suffered life-threatening injuries when protesters toppled a statue in nearby Portsmouth.
University of North Carolina History Prof. Karen Cox noted that Norfolk’s statue was unusual because it wasn’t added until 2007. The pillar was built in 1912, but the pedestal “lacked [a] top figure,” as the Virginian Pilot put it, 13 years ago.
The city of Norfolk has announced they will hold a public hearing about a plan to remove an 80-foot-tall Confederate monument from the city’s downtown. During recent protests, the statue was a focal point for demonstrators.
Norfolk has wanted to move the monument to Elmwood Cemetery since 2017, holding a vote shortly after the “Unite the Right” rally and agreeing to do so once the state approved.
In 2019, Attorney General Mark Herring said he wouldn’t prevent the move of the monument, but the city was stopped by other legal issues.
UPDATE (June 11): Protesters pulled down four statues that were part of a Confederate monument on Wednesday, according to media outlets.
Efforts to tear one of the statues down began around 8:20 p.m., but the rope they were using snapped, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
The crowd was frustrated by the Portsmouth City Council’s decision to put off moving the monument. They switched to throwing bricks from the post that held the plaque they had pulled down as they initially worked to bring down the statue.
The Pilot reports that they then started to dismantle the monument one piece at a time as a marching band played in the streets and other protesters danced.
A protester in his 30s was hit in the head as the monument fell, causing him to lose consciousness, Portsmouth NAACP Vice President Louie Gibbs told the newspaper. The crowd quieted as the man was taken to a hospital. His condition was not immediately clear.
UPDATE (June 10): The Portsmouth City Council has voted to remove a confederate statue. On Tuesday night, the statue, located on Court Street, was covered with sheets by protesters. In a video call on the same night, Mayor John Rowe proposed a plan so they could start taking action as soon as possible.
The proposed plan would allocate $100,000 to remove the statue and relocate it to alternative sites like Cedar Grove or Oak Grove cemeteries. However, the question of whether or not the city owns the statue or has the right to move it was raised at the meeting.
On Tuesday, Councilman Shannon Glover announced his plans to call for a consensus vote to gauge whether or not other council members are interested in removing a 54-foot tall Confederate monument located in the middle of Old Town.
“It’s time for our city, the City of Portsmouth, to place itself on the right side of history,” said Glover in a report by WAVY.
Glover is joined by Mayor John Rowe and Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas Burke in support of relocating the monument to Cedar Grove cemetery, just outside the Old Town limits. This plan has been in the works since 2016.
In 2018,the city of Portsmouth went to court with Stonewall Camp #380: Sons of the Confederacy over ownership of the monument. A judge ultimately ruled that he couldn’t name the city the owner, ruling in favor of Stonewall Camp #380, who wanted to keep the statue where it is.
“There will be a timetable and there will be a process for the monument to move from our city center,” said Glover.
On Tuesday, Alexandria’s infamous “Appomattox” statue was removed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group that has supported white supremacists in the past. The UDC, who owned the statue, recently had their Richmond headquarters set on fire.
Mayor Justin Wilson said he is not sure what the group plans to do with the statue now that it has been removed.
Fredericksburg removed a slave auction block early Friday morning in order to minimize pedestrian and vehicular conflicts in the evenings.
According to a news release from the city, the block had become a focus point of local demonstrators, serving as a stop along procession routes during the multiple days of protests.
“‘Move that block!’ became a chant of those protesting the death of George Floyd in Minnesota,” said the release.
The city council voted last year to move the auction block to a museum, but local businesses filed a petition with the Fredericksburg Circuit Court to keep it where it was. A judge ruled in the city’s favor in February, but one of the businesses blocked the auction block’s removal during appeals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.