Soldiers and Sailors statue adds to growing list of downed monuments in former Confederate capital

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney on July 1, citing his emergency powers declared in late May, ordered the removal of all city-owned Confederate statues.
Image:
Crews remove the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Libby Hill Park in Richmond, Va., on July 8, 2020, in Richmond, Va.Steve Helber / AP

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By Elisha Fieldstadt and Associated Press

The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors statue in Richmond, Virginia, was removed Wednesday morning, adding to the growing list of monuments ordered to come down in the former capital of the Confederacy, according to the city's mayor.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney on July 1, citing his emergency powers declared in late May, ordered the removal of all city-owned Confederate statues.

Construction crews removed Stonewall Jackson and Matthew Fontaine Maury from Monument Avenue last week, and a statue of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was taken down by crews Tuesday.

The statues had been the sites of recent protests and their bases painted with "BLM” and “TAKE IT DOWN," according to photos and NBC affiliate WWBT.

Crews arrived at about 7 a.m Wednesday in the city's Libby Hill neighborhood to take down the monument, which towers 100 feet high and was installed in 1894. It depicts a Confederate soldier standing atop a pillar.

Stoney said on July 1 that his order was in part to protect the public, as protesters had gathered to attempt to take the statues down themselves, risking safety and further spread of the coronavirus.

Calls for the removal of Confederate tributes and other statues have grown louder amid widespread protests against police brutality following the in-custody death of George Floyd May 25 in Minneapolis. Many see Confederate memorials as celebrations of racism and oppression.

"The second reason is because it is past time​. As the capital city of Virginia, we have needed to turn this page for decades," Stoney said. "Since the end of Richmond’s official tenor as the capital of the confederacy 155 years ago, we have been burdened with that legacy. The great weight of that burden has fallen on our residents of color."

"Let me be clear, removing these monuments is not a solution to the deeply embedded racial injustices in our city and nation," he added. "Just as we're transforming the city’s landscape, we must transform the systems that have long served to hold back Richmonders of color. We will replace these symbols, not only with new artwork that inspires and reflects our shared values, bur also with new policies, practices and procedures rooted in those values."

A fund has been created to "remove these highly visible vestiges of systemic racism and oppression from our thoroughfares," which Stoney said will cost more than $2 million.

He said the statues will be kept in storage until council settles on a process in which the public can help "determine the ultimate fate of these statues."

Richmond's largest Confederate statue left standing, the massive monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, is on state land. Its removal, under the orders of Gov. Ralph Northam, has been blocked at least temporarily by a court injunction.

Virginia has always been the state with the most Confederate statues, but the state's Democratic-led House and Senate voted earlier this year to grant local governments the power to decide whether to remove Confederate statues from public property, and Northam signed the measure into law in April.