Richmond mayor orders Confederate statues on city land removed

The mayor of Richmond, Va., on Wednesday ordered the immediate removal of all Confederate monuments standing on city property, saying it is "past time" for the statues to come down. 

"Fellow Richmonders, today I order the immediate removal of Confederate monuments from their pedestals," Mayor Levar Stoney (D) said in an address announcing the order, noting that city officials had already begun the process of removing monuments to former Confederate leaders.

Stoney introduced a resolution during a Richmond City Council meeting for the monuments' removal, a local NBC affiliate reported

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"As the capital city of Virginia, we have needed to turn this page for decades. And today we will," Stoney added. "Since the end of Richmond's official tenure as the capital of the Confederacy 155 years ago, we have been burdened with that legacy. ... These statues, although symbolic, have cast a shadow on the dreams of our children of color. By removing them, we can begin to heal and focus our attention on our future." 

The announcement comes amid a renewed push nationwide to remove monuments to Confederate leaders and other historical figures associated with racism.

As protests swept the nation following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, demonstrators in several cities, including Richmond, toppled statues to Confederate leaders.

Stoney said in June that he would introduce a measure to remove all the city's Confederate monuments that sit on city property. Wednesday's announcement came the same day a new state law allowing cities to remove monuments went into effect.

While the Richmond City Council did not vote on the resolution, Stoney said during a virtual session that the city did not need to leave the statues on their pedestals as they go through the formal removal process, The Roanoke Times reported. The city council has already pledged to take down the four Confederate monuments that occupy a segment of Monument Avenue, the newspaper noted. 

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Stoney said the removal of the monuments would be carried out over the next several days. He pointed to the protests across the nation while announcing the order, saying that the move would thwart any future attempts by demonstrators to topple the monuments themselves. 

"Let me be clear, removing these monuments is not a solution to the deeply embedded racial injustices in our city and nation. But it is a down payment. We have much work to do," he said. 

Hundreds gathered in Richmond as crews began the process of removing a Stonewall Jackson monument Wednesday afternoon. Monuments that sat on city property include Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.

Protesters toppled the one of Davis following protests in Richmond on the night of June 10. After the Davis statue came down, Stoney called the former Confederate leader a "racist and traitor" who "never deserved to be up on that pedestal." But he urged the community to allow the city to perform the removal process in order to avoid injury.

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Efforts from city, state and federal lawmakers to remove Confederate monuments have intensified in recent weeks. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) also announced in June his intent to remove a state-owned statue of Lee. However, a state judge temporarily blocked Northam's order after a lawsuit was filed over the decision.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Bass on filling Harris's Senate spot: 'I'll keep all my options open' Win by QAnon believer creates new headaches for House GOP MORE (D-Calif.) called for Confederate statues to be removed from the Capitol’s campus in Washington, D.C., arguing that they "pay homage to hate, not heritage." Though Republican lawmakers have pushed back against the effort, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate Democrats say White House isn't budging in coronavirus relief stalemate MORE (R-Ky.) saying that he opposed attempts to "airbrush" history. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE has, meanwhile, denounced protests that have led to the vandalism and destruction of monuments. After a group of protesters attempted to pull down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson located near the White House, Trump said he had signed a “very strong” executive order aimed at protecting federal monuments from vandalism. 

--Updated 3:45 p.m.