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Robert E. Lee statue will stand in Richmond until at least October as judge sets trial date

Robert E. Lee statue will stand in Richmond until at least October as judge sets trial date
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A prominent statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Va., will remain in place until at least October after a judge on Tuesday set a trial date for a lawsuit filed by residents to block the Virginia governor's efforts to take it down.

In July, a state board voted unanimously to remove the 11-ton bronze statue erected in 1890, which has recently become a target of vandalism and graffiti amid nationwide protests against racial injustice.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant issued a seven-page ruling Tuesday allowing a suit against that move to proceed and scheduling a trial over the dispute for Oct. 19, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

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Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring had filed a motion to dismiss the suit and plans to continue to support Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in his efforts to remove the statue from state-owned land on Monument Avenue, Herring spokeswoman Charlotte Gomer told the Richmond paper.

"Attorney General Herring remains committed to ensuring this divisive and antiquated relic of a bygone era is removed as quickly as possible," Gomer said.

Northam has been a vocal proponent of taking down the statue and other Confederate monuments, and his aides have said swift action against it will be taken when the lawsuit is settled.

Still, a court trial in October will come months after Northam's June 4 order for the removal of the monument, which has been a beacon of protests against systemic racism since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.

"The process grinds slowly sometimes," Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told the Times-Dispatch.

"I think the judge is being careful and trying to treat everyone fairly and resolve the dispute," added Tobias.

Other Confederate monuments on the street, which stood on city-owned land, were removed earlier this year.

Tobias said no matter what Marchant's ruling on the issue will be, the losing side will likely appeal and could potentially send the case to the Virginia Supreme Court, which could delay the final decision into next year.