RICHMOND, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - A judge in Richmond has issued an injunction preventing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration from removing an iconic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee for the next 10 days.
The temporary injunction order issued Monday says the state is a party to a deed recorded in March 1890 whereby it accepted the statue, pedestal and ground they sit on and agreed to “faithfully guard" and “affectionately protect” them.
It is in the public interest to await resolution of the case on the merits prior to removal of the statue, the order says.
The lawsuit was filed by William C. Gregory, who is described in a complaint as a Virginia resident, against Northam and the director of the Department of General Services, the agency tasked with handling the removal.
“Our administration is still reviewing the order,” Northam's spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said in a statement. “Governor Northam remains committed to removing this divisive symbol from Virginia's capital city, and we're confident in his authority to do so.”
Northam last week ordered the statue of Lee taken down, citing the pain felt across the country over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck.
The death of Floyd, who was black, has prompted similar Confederate monument removals around the nation. Some people say the tributes inappropriately glorify people who led a rebellion that sought to uphold slavery. Others say their removal amounts to erasing history.
Northam has said the Lee statue would be removed “as soon as possible” and his administration would seek public input about its future.
Crews inspected the statue earlier Monday as part of the planning for its removal.
“The massive statue weighs approximately 12 tons, stands 21 feet tall, and has been on a 40-foot pedestal for 130 years. Meticulous planning is required to remove an aging monument of this size and scale safely,” the Department of General Services said in a statement.
Four other Confederate monuments dot Monument Avenue, a prestigious residential street in Richmond, which was also the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Richmond’s city council has affirmed unanimous support for removing the other four, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.