A Virginia judge has issued an 10-day injunction that prevents Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration from removing an iconic but controversial statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond.
The governor, however, won't be deterred, a spokesman told The Progress-Index, a member of the USA TODAY Network.
“Governor Northam remains committed to removing this divisive symbol from Virginia’s capital city, and we’re confident in his authority to do so,” press secretary Alena Yarmosky said in an email late Monday night.
On Monday, Richmond Circuit Court judge Bradley B. Cavedo granted a request by attorneys for William C. Gregory that would halt any of the preparation work involved in removing the statue from its 130-year-old residence on Monument Avenue.
In the order, Cavedo said Northam’s directive is a violation of an 1890 deed filed in Henrico County stating the commonwealth “guaranteed” to place the 12-ton statue and its 40-foot pedestal in its existing location and to “faithfully guard it and affectionately protect it.”
The property was part of Henrico County until Richmond annexed it in 1892.
The Monument Avenue Preservation Group said on its Facebook page Monday that the plaintiff, Gregory, has family ties to one of the original benefactors of the fund that paid for it. That could not be immediately confirmed by The Progress-Index.
The group said on its Facebook page that it supported the judge’s decision “wholeheartedly.”
Cavedo wrote that the delay will do “little harm” to the state in its push to remove the statue.
The order names Northam and Joseph F. Damico, director of the state Department of General Services, as defendants. DGS is the agency tasked with overseeing the removal.
Yarmosky said the governor’s office was “still reviewing the order.”
Last week, Northam issued an order calling for the Lee monument to be removed and placed in storage while a decision was made what to do with it. The day before, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said he would push for an ordinance to remove the remaining four Confederate statues from the iconic avenue.
Virginia owns the land where the Lee statue is, while the remaining statues are owned by Richmond.
The judge’s order does not apply to the city-owned statues.
The statues were frequent targets of vandals and protesters who have marched through Richmond for racial equality, spurred by the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
Bill Atkinson can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @BAtkinson_PI.