A Virginia judge temporarily blocked an attempt to remove a monument honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond on Monday.
Judge William R. Marchant of the Richmond Circuit Court prevented an effort to pull down the statue for 90 days while a lawsuit over whether doing so would violate a 19th century agreement is litigated.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs say removing the monument would violate a 1890 deed, in which Virginia, having been transferred the land on which the statue sits, agreed to “faithfully guard and affectionately protect it.” They also argue that removing the monument could result in the area losing its national historic landmark designation, a “loss of a priceless work of art,” and would lead to “loss of favorable tax treatment and reduction in property values.” The plaintiffs include several owners of property in or near Monument Avenue in Richmond.
Marchant also dismissed a different lawsuit brought by a Virginia resident in June that attempted to block the monument’s removal.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, has filed a motion requesting the suit is dismissed.
Monday’s decision is the latest in an ongoing fight over the monument’s removal since Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced in June that the monument would come down “immediately” and be moved into storage as they “work with the community to determine its future.” It also comes amid ongoing protests against racism and police brutality in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
“This statue will come down — and Virginia will be better for it,” Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for Northam, told CNN on Monday.
Last week, a hologram of Floyd illuminated the statue that has been spray painted with phrases like “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop White Supremacy.” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney last month invoked his emergency powers to remove several Confederate monuments honoring Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and others.
In June, protesters in Richmond toppled a monument of Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, and a statue of Christopher Columbus in the city was torn down by protesters.