RICHMOND, Va. -- Crews removed the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue Wednesday morning -- one of the largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy in the United States.
The 13-ton, bronze likeness of Lee on a horse was hoisted off its 40-foot pedestal, 131 years after it was erected in the former capital of the Confederacy.
The crowd erupted in cheers as a crane slowly lowered the statue from the pedestal to the ground. It took crews about an hour to remove it.
Once on the ground, the statue was sawed into multiple pieces in order to transport it to an undisclosed location.
While many saw the statue as an offensive tribute to the South’s slave-holding past, public officials had long resisted its removal.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans to take down the statue last year after George Floyd's killing sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
A little less than a week ago, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled the statue could come down after a lengthy legal battle over whether or not the state had the right to do so.
On that day, Northam stated, "Today it is clear—the largest Confederate monument in the South is coming down.”
In the following days since it was announced the statue would come down, more patrons have gathered around Lee circle to take its the final moments. Some gathered in remembrance, while others gathered in revival.
How will it be removed?
When the bronze equestrian statue arrived by rail in Richmond from Paris in 1890, it took 10,000 men, women and children to haul its pieces more than a mile to the site where the towering monument was erected, according to The Associated Press.
Today, conservation experts who plan to relocate, yet preserve, the statue face the intricate logistics of disassembling and transporting it to a storage facility.
Because of its enormous size, the statue will then be cut into pieces so that it can fit under highway overpasses with height restrictions of between 13 1/2 to 14 feet.
The plan calls for cutting the statue along existing folds and seams to minimize any damage. Based on written accounts describing the assembly of the sculpture in 1890, the first section to be cut will include the cast base and the legs of Lee’s horse; the second section, the body and head of the horse; and the third, the figure of Lee, from the waist up.
There's a separate plan for disassembling the Lee monument’s high pedestal, which contains a time capsule.
Where will Lee go?
The Lee statue, according to the state will be placed "in secure storage at a state‐owned facility" until a decision is made about its final resting spot.
How can I watch the Lee statue's removal?
There will be "limited" in-person viewing opportunities, according to the state.
"Public Viewing Protective fencing will be installed to ensure the safety of the crews removing the statue and those who choose to view it in person," according to the state. "This is necessary due to the statue’s location in a residential neighborhood and its size. Limited viewing opportunities will be available on a first‐come, first‐served basis."
The public viewing section along Monument Avenue near the Lee monument site opens at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, September 8, and Thursday, September 9. You can enter the viewing area from Stuart Circle.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.