Virginia Governor Plans to Order Robert E. Lee Statue Removed

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia plans to order the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond to be removed, an administration official said on Wednesday, the same day Richmond’s mayor said he would propose removing additional Confederate monuments from the state capital.

Demonstrators in at least six cities have targeted symbols of the Confederacy in recent days after George Floyd was killed while Minneapolis police officers arrested him, marring some statues and monuments whose presence has long ignited controversy.

The Northam administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the move had not yet been publicly announced, said Mr. Northam, a Democrat, would release more details at a news conference on Thursday morning.

The official said the Robert E. Lee monument was the only Confederate statue in Richmond over which the state had control. The statue of Lee, the Confederacy’s commanding general during the Civil War, was one of many monuments in Richmond that were recently vandalized with spray paint; protesters tried to topple others from their bases.

Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond said on Wednesday that he would propose an ordinance to remove all four Confederate monuments that the city controls along Monument Avenue. Mr. Stoney said he would introduce the bill on July 1, when a new state law goes into effect giving local governments the authority to remove the monuments on their own.

“Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy — it is filled with diversity and love for all — and we need to demonstrate that,” Mr. Stoney said in a statement.

Michael Jones, a City Council member who has been a leading voice for removal of the Confederate monuments, is also sponsoring the proposed ordinance. “This is not my victory,” he wrote on Twitter. “To our great grandparents, who lived in their shadow and to young protesters who echoed the call – this is all yours.”

At least two cities have removed contentious statues from public spaces this week amid the protests that have followed the death of Mr. Floyd, a black man who worked as a bouncer. Prosecutors have charged Derek Chauvin, a white police officer who has since been fired, with murder and said three other officers aided in the killing.

On Monday, the mayor of Birmingham, Ala., ordered the removal of a Confederate statue from a public park. Protesters had defaced the statue, the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Linn Park, and chipped away at its base over the weekend. A large crane arrived to remove it shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, which was Jefferson Davis Day, a state holiday in Alabama honoring the president of the Confederacy.

The city of Philadelphia took down a statue on Wednesday morning that depicted the former mayor Frank Rizzo, a champion of conservatives who aggressively policed black people and gay people in the 1960s and ’70s and whose likeness has long been criticized as a symbol of racism and oppression.

The statue, which sat on the steps of a municipal services building since its unveiling in 1999, was often vandalized, and protesters in recent days have tried to take it down and light it on fire.

Mayor Jim Kenney said the Rizzo statue was already scheduled to be removed — in 2021, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. But he said the protests showed that the statue “had to go away for us to understand where we need to go to look forward.”

Reporting was contributed by Aimee Ortiz, Johnny Diaz, Maria Cramer, Audra D. S. Burch and Richard Pérez-Peña.

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