Richmond Begins Removing Confederate Monuments
Contractors began removing Confederate monuments located on city-owned land in Richmond Wednesday afternoon.
A crane, workers and police showed up at the Stonewall Jackson monument around 1:00. Within a few hours, the statue was off its pedestal and moved onto a flatbed trailer. Hundreds of people watched, cheered and chanted as the work progressed.
Confederate General Stonewall Jackson has sat atop his bronze horse and granite pedestal at the corner of Monument Avenue and Arthur Ashe Boulevard in downtown Richmond for 101 years.
Shortly after a crane and work crew showed up at the monument in the early afternoon, the crowd swelled to hundreds.
Beth Almore has lived in Richmond for 24 years, but says it’s never felt like home. In part because of these statues. She says having them come down, and be recontextualized, helps make her more comfortable in the city.
“I’m personally happy to see them go because I grew up in Connecticut and wasn’t exposed to these kinds of traumatic symbols and when I moved to Richmond I saw Confederate flags everywhere and I saw these monuments and it literally made me sick to my stomach,” she said.
As she watched the crew prepare to take the first one down the moment was bittersweet, because she said it shouldn’t have taken this long.
As a private crew, contracted by the city, did the nitty gritty work of making history the crowd entertained itself with chants and cheers. Then the storm clouds rolled in.
Lightening flashed, rain burst forth. Regina Pritchard laughed under umbrella, her camera and face still turned up towards the monument. "This is a great day for our ancestors and they are sharing tears of joy!" she exclaimed.
To the sound of thunder and church bells the Confederate General was lifted off his pedestal and slowly lowered to the ground.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says keeping the monuments up is a risk to public safety. State law now allows the statues to be removed, but that’s after a months-long process of community input about what to do with the monuments.
Speaking to City Council members earlier Wednesday, Stoney says that process can happen whether the statues are still on their pedestals or somewhere else. “We can and must conduct that process while the statues are removed and placed in temporary storage. We are confident in our legal authority to proceed immediately to remove the statues.” Because of a procedural issue, council could not vote Wednesday to authorize immediate removal. But members expressed their support for Stoney's emergengency powers and scheduled a formal vote for Thursday afternoon.
On Monument Avenue the state owns the Robert E. Lee monument, so city leaders can’t take it down. But the city owns a statue of Jefferson Davis. Protestors pulled him down earlier this month. J.E.B Stuart is still standing. In a video statement, Stoney said the process to remove the monuments would continue for "several days."
The administration estimates the cost of removal is 1.8 million dollars. They say they’re raising private funds to reimburse the city for the cost.