Northam (D) announced last week that it would remove the Confederate General’s bronze figure from its granite base and store it in demonstrations in Richmond and across the country against police brutality against African Americans. Tuesday evening, demonstrators dropped another statue in the city, that of Christopher Columbus in Byrd Park.
Preparations began on Monday when land surveyors used a bucket truck to examine the figure and the city banned parking on the surrounding street until Friday. But efforts were brutally interrupted with the judge’s decision Monday evening, which prevents any further action for 10 days.
Richmond circuit judge Bradley B. Cavedo granted a temporary injunction requested by William C. Gregory, who argued in a lawsuit that the state had promised to “lovingly protect” the statue by annexing the land on which it stands found from Henrico County. The costume identifies Gregory as the great-grandson of a couple who signed the deed.
State officials said they were not informed of Monday’s hearing on the injunction and that they were not aware until calls began to arrive from the media. The governor’s lawyer, Rita Davis, said that the court was not required to give the administration a chance to respond, but added that in most cases – such as the recent lawsuits filed against the closure of the Northam businesses linked to the pandemic – “We had that opportunity. But we weren’t this time. “
The statue is on state property which was annexed to Henrico in 1890. In the act of registration of the transfer of land, the state “guaranteed” to “hold the statue and the pedestal and the circle of land perpetually sacred for monumental purposes “and” to faithfully keep and lovingly protect it, “Gregory’s lawyer Joseph E. Blackburn Jr. said on Monday
“His family has been proud for 130 years of this statue, which rests on land belonging to his family and transferred to the Commonwealth in return for the Commonwealth’s contractual guarantee to care for and perpetually protect the Lee monument,” said the costume.
Blackburn sent a copy of the order to the Washington Post on Monday evening, but did not respond to requests for comment. Another lawyer from his Richmond office – Blackburn, Conte, Schilling & Click – said Tuesday they would not discuss the case, but issued a statement noting that they also offered free representation to several people arrested during the recent protests.
The roundabout around the statue of Lee has become the focal point of 12 days of protests against racial injustice, and its granite base is covered with graffiti. Four other Confederate statues along Monument Avenue are on city property. Mayor Levar Stoney (R) and members of the Richmond The city council said it would support the removal of these statues under a law passed this year by the General Assembly which gives localities power over war memorials on their own property.
Davis, the attorney for the governor, said she would work with the state attorney general’s office, Mark R. Herring (RE) arrange for a hearing on the Lee injunction as soon as possible.
“We were well aware of the potential legal challenges, and also well aware of the governor’s legal authority to do so,” she said, adding that the governor was ready to take the case to the Virginia Supreme Court if necessary.
In Byrd Park on Tuesday evening, a few dozen people gathered to watch the statue of Columbus immersed in Fountain Lake. “I won’t say that I approve, but neither will I say that I disapprove,” said Ronald Johnson, 33, a call center supervisor who has walked five nights in the city in the past 12 days.
Johnson was with at least 100 people at the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee – which Virginia governor Ralph Northam (D) said he planned to store – when word got out that the Columbus statue been demolished. A “massive cheer” went up, he said, and he went to Byrd Park to see it for himself.
John McDonnell contributed to this report.