Political News

Virginia Supreme Court gives Richmond green light to remove city-owned Confederate statues

Posted August 28, 2020 3:33 p.m. EDT

— Richmond, Virginia, can continue removing city-owned Confederate memorials, the state Supreme Court ruled this week.

Following protests for racial equality in the wake of George Floyd's death earlier this summer, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney invoked his emergency powers to remove multiple Confederate monuments in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, including a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, from the city's historic Monument Avenue.

"It is past time," Stoney said at the time. "As the capital city of Virginia, we have needed to turn this page for decades. And today, we will."

But his actions were soon challenged by a citizen, referred to anonymously in court documents, who said Stoney was acting outside his authority, and a lower court put Stoney's action on hold to permit the citizen to weigh in on the case. The state Supreme Court, however, citing a law that went into effect on July 1, said only the city has the right to bring legal action in the case of war memorials and that a circuit court ruled incorrectly when it recognized the authority of the citizen to put a hold on the mayor's actions.

It's not immediately clear how many statues have already been removed and how many more the city plans to take down. The decision doesn't impact a memorial to Robert E. Lee in the city, which is also the subject of a legal fight, because it's owned by the state.

CNN has reached out to Stoney and the city for comment, as well as an attorney for the plaintiff.

Virginia became a focal point around the nationwide debate about removing Confederate monuments in 2017, after one person was killed and several others were injured in Charlottesville when white supremacists and neo-Nazis protested the removal of a statue of Lee.

In June, following Floyd's death at the hands of police, protesters in Richmond toppled a monument of Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, and protesters tried to pull down a statue of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. A statue of Christopher Columbus in the city was also torn down by protesters.

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