Richmond’s Robert E. Lee statue surrounded by concrete barrier as court fight plays out

State workers in Richmond, Va., erected concrete barriers around a 130-year-old statue of the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, as the legal fight over its removal plays out in court.

Protests across the country have focused on statues depicting historic figures who defended slavery during the Civil War. Gov. Ralph Northam ordered its removal and placement in storage amid protests over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that an injunction ordered last week by a circuit court judge expires Thursday. Patrick McSweeney, an attorney representing the Monument Avenue residents in the lawsuit against Northam, withdrew the suit from federal court and wants to add the suit to the case already on the city’s circuit court's docket.

“It’s a state issue,” McSweeney told the paper. “It should be decided in a state court.”

The lawsuit was reportedly moved to federal court based on its argument that the statue's removal would disregard National Historic Landmark laws. The lawsuit claims that the removal of the statue would jeopardize tax benefits in the district, the paper said.

“We have not asked to prohibit the removal” of the statue, he said.

The Washington Post reported that the statue, which is located on Monument Avenue, has been in place for 130 years.

The addition of the barriers comes shortly after demonstrators in Richmond tore down another Confederate statue in the city Tuesday night, news outlets reported.

Virginia’s Department of General Services said in a statement that it plans to remove the statue of the Confederate general as soon as possible. But officials said it must be done safely, given the memorial’s weight and height.


“The massive statue weighs approximately 12 tons, stands 21 feet tall, and has been on a 40-foot pedestal for 130 years,” the agency said in a statement. “Meticulous planning is required to remove an aging monument of this size and scale safely.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report