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Richmond Police Memorial statue removed from city park

Posted at 10:42 AM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 18:59:01-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond Police Memorial statue was removed from its spot in Byrd Park. Images shared on social media showed work crews removing the statue Thursday morning.

The statue's removal follows days of unrest, both in Richmond and nationwide, in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. Four Minneapolis police officers have been charged in connection with Floyd's death. One of the officers was charged with murder after he pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest.

The Richmond Police Memorial had been vandalized with paint in recent days. Other statues around Richmond, including those of Christopher Columbus, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and Confederate General Williams Wickham have been pulled down.

The Richmond Police Memorial statue was placed in Byrd Park in 2016. Prior to that, it stood outside the Richmond Coliseum.

Along with the statue, the memorial includes the names of Richmond Police officers killed in the line of duty.

Glenwood Burley, the chairman of the Police Memorial Relocation Committee, helped move the memorial to Byrd Park. The committee settled on the the intersection of Blanton Avenue and Trafford Road after reviewing 19 different sites in the city.

“It gave it prominence, it had been forgotten, and many, many people didn’t know about it,” Burley said.

The retired Richmond Police officer served the city for more than 20 years. Burley served with nine of the officers that are honored on the memorial.

“This memorial is symbolic of sacrifice is very personal for me,” he explained. “Our statue was symbolic of sacrifice of black and white officers.”

Burley said the city helped move the statue Thursday morning at the request of the committee.

“We needed to get it out of here for its protection,” he stated.

Other statues around Richmond, including those of Christopher Columbus, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and Confederate General Williams Wickham have been pulled down.

Lisa Hamilton and her husband walked by the Davis statue on Monument Avenue to see where it once stood.

"It's past time that this should come down," she said. "I believe it was a symbol of oppression and treason."

Hamilton cautioned the protesters to look out for their safety, after a man was injured by a falling statue in Portsmouth.

"I'd rather see the city take it down, but I understand the frustration. Is it realistic for the police to stop this from happening?" Hamilton asked.

Another man who drove by the statue called the act "a disgrace."

"I mean, people are tearing down their cities," he said.

During his Thursday press conference, Governor Ralph Northam urged protesters not to remove the statutes.

“These statues are very large and very heavy,” Northam said. “I know these statues are causing a lot of pain, but pulling them down is not worth risking someone’s life. Let the local governments take the responsibility for taking these statues safely.”

Mayor Levar Stoney also called for the public not to take down the monuments in a tweet on Thursday.

“For the sake of public safety, I ask the community to allow us to legally contract to have the remaining ones removed professionally, to prevent any potential harm that could result from attempts to remove them without professional experience,” Stoney wrote.

No one has been arrested for the vandalism or for the tearing down of the statues, according to police.

A spokesman for the Mayor’s Office said detectives continue to investigate and where charges can be placed, they will be.

Police have received a number of tips and continue to ask anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers at 780-1000.

“I can tell you that we are investigating all of the incidents. It’s our policy not to talks about patrol strategies or tactics. But that’s not meant to infer we are not aware of the ongoing situation and are constantly adjusting our methods to address it,” a Richmond Police spokesman said.

As far as the Police Memorial, it was taken to a secured and undisclosed location where it will be cleaned.

A spokesman with the Mayor’s Office said the statue will be repaired and restored before it is returned to public display.