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Virginia Judge Hears The Case On Whether Gen. Robert E. Lee Statue Should Be Removed


Today in a courtroom in Richmond, Va., a judge heard arguments to decide the fate of a massive Confederate statue. It depicts General Robert E. Lee. It's 60 feet tall, and it's the only Confederate statue left on Monument Avenue in Richmond. In June, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam ordered it removed. Then came the lawsuits, like the one heard today. Whittney Evans of member station VPM was in that courtroom and joins us now.

Hi, Whittney.


SHAPIRO: There's a bit of a delay on your line, but tell us what happened in court today.

EVANS: Well, I was fully expecting to walk into the courtroom today and hear some quick testimony and then get a decision from the judge on whether the statue should stay up or come down. But what actually ensued were hours of witnesses explaining the history of Confederate statues in Richmond and how they came about as pushback against Reconstruction and anti-racist laws. And as a reminder, the fight over this one monument started when racial justice protests began in Richmond earlier this summer. A court injunction blocking the state from removing the statue has been in place ever since.

SHAPIRO: What's the legal argument to keep the statue up?

EVANS: Well, there were a couple of lawsuits filed to keep the statue standing. This one in particular, the one that survived, was filed by residents of Richmond's historic Monument Avenue. They say the governor doesn't have the authority to take the statue down and that if he does, it'll affect the neighborhood's historic designation and cause their property values to plummet. There's also a 19th century deed that gifted the property to the state so long as the state guards and protects the statue. And the residents say that deed is binding. The state says it's not.

SHAPIRO: What happens next?

EVANS: Well, the judge should have some ruling before November 1. That's when the temporary injunction ends. But this is obviously taking longer than some might've imagined. For context, again, this is the only Confederate monument left in Richmond. It's the only one owned by the state. The others have been pulled down by protesters or removed by the city. So this isn't the last stop. Whatever the judge rules, it's likely to be appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

SHAPIRO: That's Whittney Evans of member station VPM in Richmond.

Thanks, Whittney.

EVANS: Thank you.


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.