RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Following Virginia’s removal Wednesday of the Robert E. Lee statue, pieces of what is one of the country’s largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy were temporarily headed for a neighboring county, according to a source with direct knowledge of the plans.
The 21-foot-tall bronze likeness of Lee on a horse was hoisted off its 40-foot pedestal Wednesday, 131 years after it was erected in the former capital of the Confederacy as a tribute to the Civil War leader.
A crowd erupted in cheers and song as work crews hoisted the enormous statue of the Confederate general off the giant pedestal where it has towered over Virginia’s capital city.
Many considered the statue’s former place of honor on Monument Avenue to be an offensive glorification of the South’s slave-holding past. Others argued that taking it down would amount to erasing history. Public officials resisted calls to remove it until the death of George Floyd under a police officer’s knee.
The 12-ton statue, which prompted the closure of a large portion of the area around the monument, was cut at the waist into at least two pieces.
After removal, the source said, the statue pieces were to be taken to Virginia’s Goochland Women’s Correctional Center for temporary storage until a decision is made about its final disposition.
The pedestal is to remain for the time being, although workers were expected to remove decorative plaques and extricate a time capsule on Thursday.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans for the statue’s removal in June 2020, 10 days after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. The plans then stalled until the Supreme Court of Virginia last week ruled against two lawsuits opposing its removal, clearing the way for Wednesday’s event.
In Richmond, a city that was the capital of the Confederacy for most of the Civil War, the Lee statue became the epicenter of last summer’s protest movement. The city has removed more than a dozen other pieces of Confederate statuary on city land since Floyd’s death.
The Lee statue was created by the internationally renowned French sculptor Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercie and is considered a masterpiece, according to its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, where it has been listed since 2007.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.