A judge on Monday dissolved one injunction preventing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration from removing a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond but immediately instituted a new one in a different lawsuit.
The new 90-day injunction issued by Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant bars the statue’s removal while the claims in a lawsuit filed by a group of Richmond property owners are litigated.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has filed a motion to dismiss the property owners’ case, which has not yet been acted on by the judge, according to Herring’s spokeswoman.
Marchant on Monday also dismissed a lawsuit filed by a descendant of signatories to an 1890 deed that transferred the statue to the state, and he dissolved the injunction associated with that case.
NEW THIS MORNING—We learned a Richmond judge has issued a temporary injunction that stops the state from removing the Robert E. Lee statue, and the same judge dissolved a previous injunction doing the same. The ‘Gregory’ lawsuit was dismissed, while another lives on. @8NEWS pic.twitter.com/KFssxS1FrJ
— Ben Dennis 8News (@broadcastben_) August 3, 2020
Plaintiff William C. Gregory had argued the state agreed to “faithfully guard” and “affectionately protect” the towering statue on historic Monument Avenue.
The Associated Press sent an inquiry to his attorney seeking comment.
Northam announced plans to remove the statue in early June.
“The legacy of racism continues not just in isolated incidents” such as the May 25 of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, the governor said. “The legacy of racism also continues as part of a system that touches every person and every aspect of our lives.”
Northam — a Democrat who came under fire last year over a photo on his medical school yearbook page featuring him and a fellow student in Ku Klux Klan attire and blackface — said the statue “sends a message” to young children who visit Richmond and ask about the towering monument.
“We can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people,” he said.
BREAKING: VA Gov. Ralph Northam announces statue of Robert E. Lee to be removed.
— ABC News (@ABC) June 4, 2020
The governor appreciates the dismissal of the Gregory case and “looks forward to another victory in court as soon as possible,” his spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said in a statement.
“This statue will come down — and Virginia will be better for it,” she said.
The statue has been defaced with graffiti by rioters protesting Floyd’s death, and police officers have been attacked at the site.
Authorities say the officers were assaulted while trying to break up an encampment near the Robert E. Lee statue https://t.co/eyyjbGY81d
— WSLS 10 (@wsls) July 31, 2020
Should a court eventually clear the way, it won’t be a simple task to remove the 21-foot-high equestrian statue, which the state has said weighs about 12 tons.
A state board has approved a plan for removal that calls for cutting the statue into three sections for eventual reassembly elsewhere.
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