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Injunction Against Lee Statue Removal Extended

Protesters at Lee Monument
The Lee monument has become a gathering place for Black Lives Matter protesters, even as the state battles lawsuits to prevent its removal. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

A Richmond Circuit Court Judge is continuing to block the state from removing the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, saying “it belongs to the people.” 

In response to calls from protesters,  Gov. Ralph Northam called for the state to take down the largest Confederate monument in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy. 

William C. Gregory, a descendant of the family that donated the property where the statue resides, argues in the lawsuit that a 19th-century deed requires the state to maintain and protect the monument. 

Judge Cavedo initially barred the state from taking it down for at least 10 days, but on Thursday extended the injunction indefinitely until the legal case is resolved. The judge agreed with the state, however, that the lawsuit was flawed and gave Gregory 21 days to file an amended complaint.

Toby Heytens, Virginia’s solicitor general, objected to the expanded injunction. He told the judge it amounts to “a third bite at the apple for the plaintiff”. 

Judge Cavedo questioned the state’s right to take down property that “belongs to the people”. 

“Mr. Gregory is a citizen of the Commonwealth,” Cavedo said. “Until someone proves otherwise, to me, he is a part-owner of the monument. Just as all citizens are the sovereigns of the Commonwealth, and part owners…”

Attorney General Mark Herring called the injunction disappointing. 

“It was wrong to have put it up in 1890. And it is wrong to continue to have it stand as a symbol of our commonwealth today,” Herring told reporters outside of the courthouse.

He said he was pleased, however, that the judge agreed with the state that the complaint was flawed. 

Judge Cavedo scheduled the next hearing for July 23.  

Protesters have already torn down three Confederate monuments in the city, as well as a statue of Christopher Columbus. The Lee statue has become a heavily-graffitied gathering place for demonstrators.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with additional quotes and information since it was originally published. 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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