Roanoke City Council votes to remove Lee Monument

Aug 18, 2020

Roanoke’s City Council voted unanimously to permanently remove a memorial to Robert E Lee.

The pillar was broken when someone intentionally knocked it over last month. Most of it has been in storage since.

The council’s 7 to nothing vote came after a brief public hearing Monday night.

Roanoke's Lee Monument, before it was knocked over in July.
Credit City of Roanoke

Members of council said the decision was not an overreaction to protests following the killing of George Floyd.  Councilmember Bill Bestpitch recalled the Roanoke community’s support for victims on the weekend of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.  "If the Code of Virginia had allowed it, we would have begun the process of removing the monument that day, if not earlier," Bestpitch said before the vote. "But a state law explicitly denied us that authority."

Bestpitch contends that taking down a statue does not remove history, noting there are plenty of history books with details on Lee’s life.

The new state law that took effect July 1st means for at least 30 days Roanoke must consider offers from museums, historical societies, or battlefields that might want the memorial.