The Virginia Supreme Court rejected two appeals on Thursday seeking to keep the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Va., paving the way for the statue’s removal.
Five residents of the Monument Avenue Historic District in Richmond, as well as a descendant of two people who donated the land on which the statue sits, sued to prevent the removal, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled against both suits.
Governor Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the 130-year-old statue in June 2020, amid massive protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The protests against racism drove the removal of Confederate monuments, such as a statue of Stonewall Jackson in Richmond, and other Confederate symbols, with Mississippi lawmakers voting to remove the Confederate emblem from its state flag.
The descendant, William C. Gregory, has “no property right, related to the Lee Monument, to enforce against the Commonwealth,” the court found. The five historic district residents argued that the deeds to the property required the state of Virginia to hold the monument “perpetually sacred,” however the court also rejected this claim.
“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’s opinion stated.
“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,” Northam said in a statement following the rulings. “Today it is clear—the largest Confederate monument in the South is coming down.”