News & Politics

Virginia Judge Rules Robert E. Lee Statue Can Remain -- For Now

The statue of Confederate Army of Northern Virginia Gen. Robert E. Lee stands in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer is expected to make an announcement regarding the Robert E. Lee statue later in the day. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

A Virginia judge has granted a temporary injunction that prevents Governor Ralph Northam from tearing down the famous statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond.

The 10-day injunction was granted because Northam violated an 1890 statute that “guaranteed” the location where the statue was placed.

USA Today:

In the order, Cavedo said Northam’s directive is a violation of an 1890 deed filed in Henrico County stating the commonwealth “guaranteed” to place the 12-ton statue and its 40-foot pedestal in its existing location and to “faithfully guard it and affectionately protect it.”

The property was part of Henrico County until Richmond annexed it in 1892.

The Monument Avenue Preservation Group believes the plaintiff in the case has family ties to one of the original boosters who paid for the statue. The Lee statue is just one of five statues of Confederate heroes along Monument Avenue in Richmond — all of which have been targeted by Northam to be erased from history.

Last week, Northam issued an order calling for the Lee monument to be removed and placed in storage while a decision was made what to do with it. The day before, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said he would push for an ordinance to remove the remaining four Confederate statues from the iconic avenue.

Virginia owns the land where the Lee statue is, while the remaining statues are owned by Richmond.

The judge’s order does not apply to the city-owned statues.

Moving a 130-year-old statue to preserve it cannot be done without great care.

“The massive statue weighs approximately 12 tons, stands 21 feet tall, and has been on a 40-foot pedestal for 130 years. Meticulous planning is required to remove an aging monument of this size and scale safely,” the Department of General Services said in a statement.

Protesters in other cities have taken matters into their own hands and torn down the offending artworks without thought to the simple historic value of them. In a Richmond park, a statue of Gen. Williams Carter Wickham was removed by mobs. This is not only ignorant, it’s against the law. The mobs have legal remedies open to them if they want the statues removed. The destruction of property is just mindless. There is no excuse for it.

Eventually — probably sooner than we can dream — these philistines will be tearing pages out of history books, if they don’t burn them outright. Future students will find a hole in U.S. history for the years 1861-1865. The only things that happened of consequence were Indians being genocidally eliminated by evil white men, women being oppressed, and workers unable to unionize.

Other than that, no one lived or died or fought or bled for what they believed in. A million men never lived and died for a cause, no matter how odious or how glorious. There will just be a huge, yawning gap where the Civil War and the Confederacy used to be.

An exaggeration? Perhaps, but what makes it frightening is that we can imagine it based on what’s happening today.