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Richmond officials say Arthur Ashe's family want his statue to come down, fearing retribution

Richmond officials say Arthur Ashe's family want his statue to come down, fearing retribution
© Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Richmond, Va., plans to remove the statue of tennis champion Arthur Ashe from the city’s Monument Avenue, citing his family’s wishes.

Lawyers for Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D) and Richmond’s public works director said the city will remove the statue of Ashe, the only one on the street depicting a non-Confederate, at the request of his family, who fear further damage to the statue, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

The statue was graffitied with “WHITE LIVES MATTER” and “WLM” in late June.

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The announcement came the same day Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley C. Cavedo granted a 60-day hold on the city continuing to take down Confederate monuments, the newspaper reported. An anonymous plaintiff sued Stoney earlier this week to halt their removal.

Cavedo directly castigated Stoney for his handling of the protests that have taken place in the city since the death of George Floyd. “We’ve been through three police chiefs now, and I don’t see much of a difference,” Cavedo said, according to the newspaper. “And who is their boss?”

Richmond Police Chief Will Smith resigned in mid-June after footage emerged of a police vehicle driving through a crowd of protesters near the street’s Robert E. Lee statue. His interim replacement, William “Jody” Blackwell, resigned 10 days later, returning to his former rank.

Lawyers for the mayor said Thursday that the only remaining Confederate statue on city land is that of A.P. Hill, which is in the city’s Northside neighborhood rather than on Monument Avenue.

Although Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin said this week she has asked Attorney General Mark Herring (D) to weigh in on whether Stoney has the authority to take down the statues, Herring’s office said it would not comment on a matter subject to ongoing litigation.

"It has been the long-standing policy of attorneys general not to issue opinions on matters currently in litigation, as this is, or to decide whether specific conduct constituted a criminal act because that is for a judge or jury to resolve, so this isn't something on which an opinion would be issued,” Herring’s chief of staff, Michael Kelly, said.

Cavedo, who lives in the Monument Avenue Historic District, blocked Gov. Ralph Northam last month from removing the Lee statue, the only Confederate statue on Monument owned by the state. He has recused himself from a separate legal challenge to the statue’s removal, according to the Times-Dispatch.