The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled on Thursday (Sept. 2) that a giant statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee can be removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond, where it’s remained for more than a century. The court voted on the matter after a group of Virginia residents filed two lawsuits attempting to block the statue’s removal, which Gov. Ralph Northam said he would do last year.
According to NPR, five residents who own property near the statue claimed Northam was bound to protect and maintain the statue due to an 1889 joint resolution of the Virginia General Assembly. A descendant, William Gregory, also argued in his lawsuit that the state of Virginia agreed to “faithfully guard” and “affectionately protect” the statue back when it was first accepted.
However, the court found that the “restrictive covenants” in the 1887 and 1890 deeds no longer apply.
“Those restrictive covenants are unenforceable as contrary to public policy and for being unreasonable because their effect is to compel government speech, by forcing the Commonwealth to express, in perpetuity, a message with which it now disagrees,” the justices wrote.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring agreed, saying that a small group of residents can’t force the state to maintain a monument that no longer reflects its values.
“Today is a historic day in Virginia. Today, we turn the page to a new chapter in our Commonwealth’s history — one of growth, openness, healing and hope,” he said in a statement.
Northam announced his decision to remove the statue last June, 10 days after the murder of George Floyd. The statue became a focal point of racial inequality protests in Richmond, which acted as the capital of the Confederacy for most of the Civil War.
On Thursday, it was not revealed how quickly the monument will be taken down, but a plan for its removal is reportedly in the works.