A gargantuan statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, standing on state-owned property in Richmond and fenced off since the beginning of the year, will finally come down. Two justices of the Virginia Supreme Court, ruling in two separate cases, have agreed that Gov. Ralph Northam has the power to dismantle the statue. When Northam first announced removal plans last summer, at the height of the protests against the death of George Floyd, a small group of nearby residents and a descendant of the family that donated the site over a century ago filed suit against Northam.
Both suits failed but the plaintiffs appealed to the high court. The justices there determined that “restrictive covenants” in the nineteenth-century deeds that transferred the statue to the state are “unreasonable” as their effect forces the state to endorse “a message with which it now disagrees.” Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, has already removed several monuments, including two commemorating Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. As of Thursday, removal activity on the Lee status had not begun.