RICHMOND, Va., — Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax joined a descendent of Confederate general Robert E. Lee calling for the prominent Monument Avenue statue to be removed.
“This statue is going to be torn down here in Richmond and in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It will no longer exist. This statue is gone,” Fairfax told a crowd outside the Lee Statue on Thursday.
Fairfax stood by Robert W. Lee IV, the fourth great-nephew of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
Lee, who is also a pastor, gave his blessing for the removal of the Lee statue calling it a symbol of hate and racism in the Commonwealth.
“Trust me when I say the Lee family heard it because there are members of my family that are shaking in their boots and I know Robert E Lee is rolling around in his grave and I say let him roll,” Lee said. “This was you saying enough is enough and black lives matter.”
The announcement comes after days of protests and unrest in The River City.
Lt. Governor Fairfax called the imminent removal of the two-ton, six-story statue as “just a down payment.” He described the need to remove “living monuments” in the city.
“Those living monuments are called our schools which are substandard and black and brown children walk into buildings every single day being reminded what the Commonwealth has thought about them for 400 years,” Fairfax stated.
He also cited the inequities in the healthcare system where minorities often have poorer outcomes and a “broken criminal justice system where black people are overrepresented by three and three-and-a-half times in our prisons.”
“Those are the monuments that carry the oppression from generation to generation to generation."
Lee also said the eyes of the world are on Virginia and the United states after the death of George Floyd and many others at the hands of oppression, racism, white supremacy and police brutality.
But, a group that has been a longtime champion of the Confederate statues may challenge the governor’s decision in the courts.
Andrew Morehead, a regional manager of the local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans, called the removal of the statue “ridiculous.”
“It’s absolutely absurdity to think these monuments had anything to do with a man getting killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota,” Morehead said. “[Thinking] it’s going to all of a sudden at a snap of a finger create racial harmony is absurd.”
Morehead said his group will not call for counter-protests following the governor’s announcement.
“We don’t encourage anybody to do that,” he explained. “First and foremost, we are going to definitely look into the constitutionality of what the governor is going to do sooner rather than later.”
A series of organizers of Thursday’s protest spoke to the crowd of young and old. They held signs, passed out bottled water, and cheered when cars drove by honking their horns.
“I bet your feet are tired, I bet your back is tired, I bet your mind is tired, I bet your eyes are tired. I bet you just want to go home and lay on your bed and go to sleep," they said. "That’s what I want to do, too, but I won’t do that until this is fixed."