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Judge To Decide Whether Injunction Blocking Lee Removal Can Continue

Monument covered in graffiti and surrounded by protesters
An injunction is currently blocking the state from removing a monument to Robert E. Lee. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

A Richmond Circuit Court Judge will decide Thursday whether to extend a court order that’s preventing the state from removing the Robert E. Lee monument.

The lawsuit is the first of three complaints filed to stop the removal of the monument. In the lawsuit, William Gregory, a descendant of the family that donated the property where the statue resides, argues that a 19th-century deed requires the state to maintain the monument. Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley Cavedo issued a 10-day injunction last Monday, blocking the state from taking it down.

Gregory’s attorneys have since asked the court to extend that injunction.

In a Tuesday court filing, Attorney General Mark Herring asked the court to decline that request.

Herring said the monument is a daily reminder of one of the darkest periods in U.S. history.

“It is a symbol of racism and oppression at a time when we strive towards a future marked by equality and inclusion,” he said in the brief.

Herring added that the public demands “state-sponsored displays of racism” be taken down.

Two additionallawsuits were filed challenging Gov. Ralph Northam’s ordered removal of the Lee statue.

Patrick McSweeney, former chair of the Republican Party of Virginia, sued in federal court on behalf of Helen Marie Taylor and five other anonymous people who claim to be residents of Monument Avenue.

The plaintiffs, who argued they may lose tax credits and property value if the monument is removed, have since withdrawn the lawsuit. 

A Henrico man is also suing in federal court, claiming the statue’s removal violates a federal law governing historic landmarks.

William Davis, who filed the complaint, said because the monument is listed on national and state historic registers it must be protected. 

“It cannot be removed, except for very few limited exceptions, none of which are even close,” he said in an interview. 

State officials maintain the historic designation is honorific and does not legally protect the monument. 

Meanwhile, the Department of General Services is installing temporary concrete barriers around the monument.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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