The largest Confederate monument in the US is set for removal this week

Streets are closed around the Robert E. Lee statue ahead of expected protests in Richmond, Virginia on January 17, 2021.
A shot of Richmond's Robert E. Lee statue, covered in anti-racist graffiti, in January 2021.
  • A 12-ton statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee will come down from its pedestal in Richmond, Virginia on Wednesday.
  • This move comes more than a year after Governor Ralph Northam ordered for the statue to be removed.
  • The statue, currently the largest Confederate monument in the country, will be moved to a state-owned facility.
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The largest remaining Confederate statue in the US is coming down on Wednesday after towering over Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, for more than 130 years.

A crew is set to store the six-story-tall, 12-ton statue of American Confederate general Robert E. Lee in a state-owned facility until officials decide what to do with it.

Taking down Confederate monuments has become a major focus of anti-racism activists in the US in recent years. In 2020, more than 160 Confederate symbols were renamed or removed from public spaces, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"Virginia's largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will come down this week," Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. "This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a commonwealth."

Northam ordered the statue to be taken down in June 2020, after nationwide protests erupted after white police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis.

The order faced legal challenges from a descendant of the family that gave the statue to Virginia, as well as from families that lived near the statue in Richmond. But last week, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled in Northam's favor.

The statue has towered above Monument Avenue in Richmond since 1890. Five other confederate statues previously stood there, but Lee's is the last remaining, according to a press release from the commonwealth.

Virginia will leave the 40-food granite pedestal holding the statue in place for now, and the city of Richmond and the Virginia Department of Fine Arts will work to "reimagine Monument Avenue," which is a tourism area in the city.

"Richmond is no longer the capital of the confederacy," Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said in a statement. "We are a diverse, open, and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect this reality."

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