Richmond Monument Avenue property owners file new lawsuit challenging removal of Robert E. Lee statue

Richmond Monument Avenue property owners file new lawsuit challenging removal of Robert E. Lee statue
© RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images

A group of property owners along Richmond's Monument Ave. have filed a new lawsuit seeking to block the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue located in the center of the city's traffic circle.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the lawsuit came in response to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's (D) decision to move their previous lawsuit to federal court, resulting in the plaintiffs dropping that suit and refiling a similar lawsuit in state court.

The property owners are seeking to block a decision by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to remove the statue, arguing that he does not have the authority to do so and that arbitrarily removing the monument would devalue property along the avenue.

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“Governor Northam is committed to removing this divisive symbol from Virginia’s capital city. We’re confident in his authority to do so, and look forward to winning in court,” Northam's spokesperson said in response to the previous lawsuit.

Northam's decision came in response to protests in Richmond and around the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died last month in Minneapolis police custody. Four white officers have since been charged in his death, including one with second-degree murder.

“Think about the message this sends to people coming from around the world to visit the capital city of one of the largest states in the country. Or to young children. What do you say when a six-year-old African American little girl looks you in the eye, and says: What does this big statue mean? Why is it here?” the governor said of the monument earlier this month.

“When a young child looks up and sees something that big and prominent, she knows that it’s important," he added. "And when it’s the biggest thing around, it sends a clear message: This is what we value the most. But that’s just not true anymore."