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Judge Halts Virginia Governor’s Plan To Remove Robert E. Lee Statue, Cites 130-Year-Old Statute
A statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee towers over Monument Avenue on September 15, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia.
Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

A Virginia judge has thrown a wrench into Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D-VA) plans to remove the iconic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the state capital.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo issued a 10-day injunction on Monday that would keep the statue in place, MRC TV reported. Cavedo ruled that Northam’s directive violated a 130-year-old deed agreement filed in Henrico County that guarantees the statue remains in place and that the commonwealth “faithfully guard it and affectionately protect it.”

As MRC reported, Cavedo’s ruling keeps anyone from preparing the statue to be removed.

Northam’s office vowed to remove the statue anyway.

“Governor Northam remains committed to removing this divisive symbol from Virginia’s capital city, and we’re confident in his authority to do so,” Northam press secretary Alena Yarmosky said in a statement Monday night.

Northam ordered the statue to be removed last Thursday, The Daily Wire reported.

“Today, Virginia is home to more Confederate commemorations than any other state. That’s true because generations ago, Virginia made the decision not to celebrate unity, but to honor the cause of division,” Northam tweeted at the time. “The statue of Robert E. Lee is the most prominent. Lee himself didn’t want a monument, but Virginia built one any way. Instead of choosing to heal the wounds of the American civil war, they chose to keep them on display.”

Northam then pointed out that “laws can be changed” and that he proposed legislation that would “let cities and counties decide what to do with monuments in their communities—take them down, move them somewhere else, or add additional context.”

“But the Lee statue is unique, both in size and in legal status. The state owns it, unlike most other statues––that was part of the plan to keep it up forever. It sits on a 100-foot circle of land, a state-owned island, surrounded by the City of Richmond,” Northam added. “And when it’s the biggest thing around, it sends a clear message: This is what we value the most. But that’s just not true anymore. In Virginia, we no longer preach a false version of history.”

Since the Lee statue is on state-owned land, he directed Virginia’s Department of Government Services to remove the statue.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney spoke on Thursday with Northam as well, and announced at that time that the four other Confederate statues on Monument Avenue would be removed as well. Stoney announced he would “introduce an ordinance on July 1 to also remove these four statues in addition to the iconic Lee monument,” MRC reported. The other four statues “commemorate J.E.B. Stuart, Jefferson Davis, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Confederate Navy officer Matthew Fontaine Maury,” the outlet reported.

Over the weekend, protesters toppled a Confederate statue dedicated to Confederate Gen. William Carter Wickham, which was in Monroe Park, The Daily Wire reported. Another statue in the park, dedicated to Gen. Fitzhugh Lee for his service during the Spanish-American War, is still standing.

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