Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella, Washington Post, July 1, 2020
Hundreds have gathered at the traffic circle of Monument Avenue and Arthur Ashe Boulevard in Virginia’s capital city to watch workers dismantle a statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson, the latest monument to the Confederacy to topple amid national reckoning on racism and justice.
The statue is one of four honoring Confederate heroes that are located on city-owned land on Monument Ave in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy. A new state law allowing localities to remove such statues took effect Wednesday, although city and county governments are supposed to go through a careful public process before making the decision.
Richmond Mayor Levary Stoney appeared to be relying on an emergency declaration for the city — which Gov, Ralph Northam extended this week at the mayor’s request — to assert that those steps could be skipped in the interest of public safety. Stoney spokesman Jim Nolan said the three other city-owned Confederate monuments — honoring Jefferson Davis, J.E.B. Stuart and Matthew Fontaine Maury, will be dismantled next.
A work crew arrived Wednesday afternoon to remove the Jackson statue, and spent hours attaching slings and chains and loosening bolts, pausing briefly around 4 p.m. as thunder rumbled and lightning flashed overhead.
In early June, protesters toppled the iconic statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, though the bulk of his monument remains.
Monument Avenue is also home to the state-owned statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E Lee, which Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has ordered removed. That decision is being challenged in court.
Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said Wednesday that the governor’s office would not address questions about when and how localities could act to take down Confederate tributes.
“But make no mistake — Robert E. Lee is next,” Yarmosky said in a written statement.
As the removal crew got to work, a white man ran up to the base with a large flag that urged people to “respect and protect” Confederate monuments. Protesters soon swarmed him, stripped the flag from its poll and set it on fire.
“Burn that s—!” a woman called out.
Law enforcement authorities drove up moments later in a cruiser, siren blaring, which helped clear people off the monument base and to the other side of the street.
Sheriff’s deputies hustled the man into a car. He was crying and saying, “I’m just so sad about the whole thing”