The debate over Confederate statues may seem like a distant memory to many Americans, but it has now resurfaced in Virginia.
A 131-year-old statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee will be removed from Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, after a Virginia state Supreme Court ruling.
The court ruled that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam had the authority to remove the statue in Taylor v. Northam and Gregory v. Northam.
The governor celebrated the decision.
“Today’s ruling is a tremendous win for the people of Virginia,” he said. “Our public memorials are symbols of who we are and what we value. When we honor leaders who fought to preserve a system that enslaved human beings, we are honoring a lost cause that has burdened Virginia for too many years. I am grateful to Attorney General Mark Herring, my former counsel Rita Davis, and all those who worked so hard for this victory. This ruling is an important step towards moving the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Richmond forward into a more inclusive, just future.”
“Today it is clear—the largest Confederate monument in the South is coming down,” he added.
Confederate statues have become a point of debate around the nation in recent years as protests and riots around issues of race have hit cities around the country. The fervor over Confederate statues has lessened recently, but this latest victory for opponents of the monument is clearly fruit of those previous years of demonstration.
The Virginia court’s decision was welcomed by some local leaders.
“We are taking an important step this week to embrace the righteous cause and put the ‘Lost Cause’ behind us,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said in a statement. “Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy. We are a diverse, open, and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect this reality.”