Richmond Has to Stop Taking Down Confederate Statues for 60 Days, Judge Says

The statue from the Jefferson Davis monument, background, stands on the median after it was removed from its pedestal on Monument Ave. in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, July 8, 2020. The figure was atop a 65 foot tall Doric column topped by a bronze figure called "Vindicatrix," also known as "Miss Confederacy," is the work of Edward Virginius Valentine. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

By Arianna Coghill
July 10, 2020

During deliberations Judge Bradley Calvedo referred to a Confederate general as an “American war veteran”

A Richmond Circuit Court Judge issued an injunction barring the city from removing additional Confederate monuments on Thursday. The removal process began last week, when Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney used emergency powers to order the statues be taken down in response to weeks of protests against racism and police brutality. 

“We disagree. We’re disappointed. We did the right thing,” Stoney’s spokesperson Jim Nolan said in a statement right after the ruling issued by Judge Bradley Cavedo. Cavedo ruled a 60-day injunction on the removals, making this decision after a hearing for the lawsuit originally issued on Tuesday.

The lawsuit, issued by an unnamed plaintiff, argued that Stoney violated state law by issuing the immediate removal of the statues. Lawyers representing the city said most of the statues have been removed in recent days, excluding A.P. Hill because the general’s remains are located underneath the statue. 

READ MORE: 11 Confederate Statues Are Coming Down in Richmond. Here’s What You Need to Know

Nolan also announced at the hearing that the relatives of legendary Black tennis player Arthur Ashe have requested that his statue on Monument Avenue also be removed during this period of civil unrest. According to Nolan, the matter is still under discussion. 

So far, the statues of Confederate leaders like Matthew Fontaine Murray, Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart have been removed this week. The statue removal process began on July 1, when a new law passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam gave localities the authority to remove the war memorials if they choose. 

Stoney invoked his emergency powers to bypass a city council vote required by the law. He said he was concerned about public safety amid continuous protests and feared that protesters could potentially get hurt if they tried to pull down the statues on their own. 

Last month, a protester was severely injured in Portsmouth after being struck on the head by a Confederate statue pulled down by other demonstrators. The man, in his 30s, reportedly lost consciousness at the scene and had to be hospitalized. 

Cavedo criticized Stoney’s handling of both the protests and removals, stating that “rioters” were a threat to the public’s safety, not the monuments. According to WRIC, the judge has also referred to Confederate Gen. Hill as an “American war veteran.” 

Cavedo is also at the center of the legal dispute over Richmond’s largest Confederate monument depicting Gen. Robert E. Lee. The statue’s removal, ordered by Northam, was temporarily blocked by an injunction issued by Cavedo.

Recently, the plaintiff issued an amended complaint after Cavedo dismissed the first one, saying he wanted the plaintiff’s attorney to have “another shot” at addressing issues of legal standing. Under the amended complaint, 69-year-old plaintiff William C. Gregory says he would face irreparable harm if the statue were removed. The hearing on this case is expected later this month. 

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