RICHMOND, Va. -- An eight foot fence was installed Monday around the Robert E. Lee Monument, on Monument Avenue in Richmond.
"The Department of General Services (DGS) today will install fencing around the Lee Monument grounds to ensure the safety of visitors and workers as part of DGS’s plan to prepare the site for the removal of the Lee statue," DGS spokesperson Dena Potter wrote in an email. "As we await the resolution of legal challenges that have delayed the statue’s removal, DGS wants to be prepared to act quickly upon a final determination. The fencing is not intended to be permanent."
Earlier a hazmat team worked to dispose of "abandoned personal items" left at the site, but added, "all memorials on the grounds will remain until the statue is removed."
Neighbors like Andrea Quilici said it was disappointing the grounds wouldn't be accessible anymore.
"Kind of surprising," said Quilici. "I love the fact that people were able to access, finally, the circle. Before it was just a round-a-bout with cars all around, now it’s a real plaza. A real place for people."
Warren Jafe, who lives nearby echoed that sentiment.
"Everybody’s just been visiting and been really friendly and nice and just curious I think," said Jafe. "It’s just a shame that now they’re going to prevent access until whatever the next step is. It’s just a shame."
However, Capitol Police Spokesperson, Joe Macenka, described a different experience around the monument. In fact, he said the fencing couldn't have come at a better time.
"Since the summertime through the fall and into the winter, constant, constant calls for service," said Macenka. "Last night, alone, Capitol Police responded to not one, not two, but three fire calls at the Lee monument within the circle. And we’re not talking -- now understand -- we’re not talking people who are grilling hot dogs or grilling burgers and left a Weber unattended -- these are intentionally set fires. The neighbors are concerned, they’re upset, we understand."
The area around the statue was renamed Marcus-David Peters Circle by groups that protested police brutality during the weeks and months following the May 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Peters was shot and killed by a Richmond Police officer in May 2018. Multiple investigations ruled that the police shooting was justified given the circumstances.
During summertime protests, memorials were erected near the Lee Monument to others killed in police shootings.
"[After the monument is removed] DGS will remove memorials and store them with care until a decision is made as to their disposition," the email continued.
The Lee monument is the last remaining Confederate monument along Richmond's Monument Avenue.
Other monuments were removed over the summer, but since the Lee Monument sits on state-owned land, the removal process was slowed by legal challenges.
The circle has become a central meeting place for both protesters and community members.
Some neighbors who live near the Lee Monument have urged the City of Richmond to enforce rules to clean up the area and not allow people to gather at all hours of the day and night.
This is a developing story.