Judge Temporarily Halts Robert E. Lee Statue Removal in Richmond

Days after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced his plans to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond's Monument Avenue, a judge has granted a 10-day injunction preventing the removal by a man who contends in a lawsuit that the state is breaking its promise to "affectionately protect" the statue when annexed from Henrico County.

According to court documents obtained by The Washington Post, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo approved the injunction sought by William C. Gregory, identified in the lawsuit as the great-grandson of a couple who were signatories to the deed. The land on which the 14-foot statue and 50-foot base stand was annexed in 1890, and as part of the land transfer deed at the time, the state promised to "hold said statue and pedestal and circle of ground perpetually sacred to the monumental purpose" and to "faithfully guard it and affectionately protect it," Gregory’s lawyer, Joseph E. Blackburn Jr., argued in a court filing Monday.

With Richmond planning on removing the statue soon, with the city reportedly notifying neighbors to expect work being done in the next few days, the 10-day stall comes at a time in which Northam said the state no longer wants to align itself and celebrate the Confederate leader. "Our administration is still reviewing the order," Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky told the Washington Post. "Governor Northam remains committed to removing this divisive symbol from Virginia’s capital city, and we’re confident in his authority to do so."

Northam announced his intentions to remove the statue last week amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests occurring worldwide. "In Virginia, we no longer practice a false version of history," Northam said during his announcement, saying the statue would be removed as soon as possible. He also quoted Lee himself, who said, "I think it wise not to keep open the sores of war."

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Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said during the announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, it's time. It's time to put an end to the Lost Cause and fully embrace the righteous cause." Stoney said that because Richmond is "no longer the capital of the Confederacy," it is time to remove the emblem of its figureheads.

Rev. Robert W. Lee IV, the Confederate general's great-great-grandson, threw his weight behind the removal of the statue as well. He said that with the of the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd in police custody, the world is watching: "If today is not the right time, when will it be the right time?" he said.