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Lawsuit seeks to prevent Stoney from removing Confederate Monuments

Racial Justice Confederate Statues
Posted at 5:12 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 00:00:46-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Richmond seeks an emergency injunction to prevent Mayor Levar Stoney from removing additional Confederate statues.

The anonymous plaintiff argues that Stoney's use of "emergency powers" to remove the statues is a violation of new state law giving municipalities the authority to remove statues on public land. The suit requests an emergency injunction to halt the removal of additional monuments.

In pledging to remove 11 statues throughout the first week of July, Stoney said that the monuments presented a severe, immediate, and growing threat to public safety.

"It's my job, my number one responsibility is to protect life and property. And I thought that we couldn't take one more day to risk life for property here in the city of Richmond. And that's why we removed those monuments yesterday," said the mayor.

Matt Pinsker, an attorney and adjunct professor at VCU, who is not involved in the lawsuit, said from a legal standpoint, Stoney was not in the right to use emergency powers.

“Doesn’t matter whether the statues should come down or shouldn’t come down, legally state law has governed out a procedure for them to come down," Pinkser said.

Pinsker said under the new state law, there should have been a 60-day review along with public input before removal.

Stoney said the removed statues will be placed in temporary storage while Richmond enters a 60-day administrative process during which the city will solicit public input while determining the fate of the statues.

So far, statues of J.E.B Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Matthew Fontaine Maury, and the Confederate Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument have been removed by the city.

Pinsker said it's hard to predict how the lawsuit could play out.

“I think the mayor's arguments, the legal status, is much more shakey, its much more novel and much more creative," Pinsker said. "And those looking at more traditional definition of state of emergency are on more of solid legal footing but its too hard to predict how this will end up because of how ambiguously the statues are worded.”

CBS 6 has reached out to the plaintiff's attorney and the Stoney Administration for comment. Stoney's office said they have not been served the lawsuit.