A Virginia judge on Monday temporarily blocked Gov. Ralph Northam (D) from ordering the removal of a large statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the Monument Avenue traffic circle located in downtown Richmond, Va.
Judge Bradley B. Cavedo, according to multiple reports, issued a 10-day injunction halting Northam's order in the face of a lawsuit, contending that the state had agreed to protect the statue when it annexed the land.
In a court filing obtained by The Washington Post, an attorney for plaintiff William Gregory argues that Virginia agreed to “faithfully guard it and affectionately protect it," referring to the statue when the state annexed the land from Henrico County in 1890. Gregory is the grandson of a couple involved in the land deal, according to court documents.
A spokesperson for the governor's office said that state officials believe they have the authority to go forward with the statue's removal. The towering edifice was constructed in the years after Lee's death in 1870, but Northam announced his support for its removal following the violent 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville that ended with one person dead.
“Our administration is still reviewing the order,” Northam's spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, told the Post. “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 announced last week at a press conference that the state's Department of General Services would remove the statue.
“Yes, that statue has been there for a long time. But it was wrong then and it is wrong now, so we’re taking it down,” Northam said when announcing the plan for removal.
The protests that have erupted nationwide following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have included the defacement of a number of Confederate monuments.
The Lee statue, one of five Confederate monuments on the Richmond street, has been a target of vandalism during the protests.