Court ruling paves way for removal of Lee Monument
The Supreme Court of Virginia unanimously ruled in the Commonwealth’s favor in Taylor v. Northam and Gregory v. Northam, affirming the Commonwealth’s authority to remove the Robert E. Lee Monument.
The rulings clear the way for Virginia to remove the statue, the largest confederate monument in the South.
“Assuming arguendo that the Taylor Plaintiffs are correct in claiming that the language in the 1887 Deed and the 1890 Deed created restrictive covenants, those restrictive covenants are unenforceable as contrary to public policy and for being unreasonable because their effect is to compel government speech, by forcing the Commonwealth to express, in perpetuity, a message with which it now disagrees,” the court concluded in its opinion.
“For the reasons stated, we hold that the circuit court did not err in concluding that the purported restrictive covenants are unenforceable, that Governor Northam’s order to remove the Lee Monument did not violate the Constitution of Virginia, and that all of the Taylor Plaintiffs’ claims are without merit. Accordingly, we will affirm the judgment of the circuit court and immediately dissolve all injunctions imposed by the circuit court.”
“Today is an historic day in Virginia. Today, we turn the page to a new chapter in our Commonwealth’s history – one of growth, openness, healing, and hope,” Attorney General Mark Herring said.
“For too long we allowed our communities to be dominated by symbols of white supremacy and hate that did not represent who we had become as Virginians. The Lee statue has stood as a daily reminder of a racist past, but we cannot let that history define the Virginia of today and the Virginia of tomorrow,” Herring said.
“The monuments we raise and the symbols we include in our communities create a certain narrative, but up until now that narrative has been one-sided – and it’s time to tell our full story,” Herring said.
“Today’s ruling is a tremendous win for the people of Virginia,” Gov. Ralph Northam said. “Our public memorials are symbols of who we are and what we value. When we honor leaders who fought to preserve a system that enslaved human beings, we are honoring a lost cause that has burdened Virginia for too many years.
“I am grateful to Attorney General Mark Herring, my former counsel Rita Davis, and all those who worked so hard for this victory. This ruling is an important step towards moving the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Richmond forward into a more inclusive, just future,” Northam said.
“Today it is clear—the largest Confederate monument in the South is coming down,” Northam said.
Today’s ruling allows the Department of General Services to begin executing a plan that prioritizes public safety. This process is complicated by several logistical and security concerns, including street closures and the equipment required to ensure the safe removal of the 12-ton statue.
Ultimately removal of the statue will be a multi-day process; while crews are moving quickly, no action on the statue is expected this week.
For more information as the timeline and process move forward, please follow @VAMonument2021 on Twitter and Facebook.