A week after Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond, Virginia ordered the immediate removal of all remaining Confederate statues in the city, a Richmond Circuit Court judge has approved a temporary injunction blocking the mayor’s order.
Mayor Stoney had said the monuments posed a “severe and growing threat to public safety,” as activists’ increasingly frequent attempts at toppling them could result in injury or further spread the coronavirus by encouraging group gatherings, and that it was time to “fully embrace the righteous cause.”
As of this Wednesday, Stoney had seven statues removed from the city: those of General Stonewall Jackson; Matthew Fontaine Maury; Jefferson Davis; J.E.B. Stuart; and Jeff Davis, as well as two cannon sculptures and the 17-foot-tall “Confederate Soldiers and Sailors” statue in Libby Hill. The only Confederate monument remaining on Richmond’s Monument Avenue is a bronze of General Robert E. Lee, the oldest and largest on the block; a statue of Confederate General A.P. Hill also still stands in Richmond’s north side.
Stoney was able to expedite the process, bypassing a vote by the Richmond City Council, based on his position as the city’s Director of Emergency Management. But now, Hon. Judge Bradley Cavedo has challenged the mayor’s authority and barred the further removal of statues for 60 days, granting an anonymous plaintiff’s request in a suit brought against Stoney this Tuesday. In court yesterday, Cavedo referred to General A.P. Hill as an “American war veteran.”
According to the Richmond-Times Dispatch, the anonymous plaintiff’s lawyer argued that Stoney broke state law that requires public notice and a hearing before public monuments can be taken down. “In my view, there is reason to believe state law has been violated,” Cavedo conceded in court.
Before the Thursday hearing began, Stoney, who is a Black Democrat, had tweeted a photo of a note sent to his office reading, “Never forget …. you will always be a [N-word].” The mayor said it was “just a sample of the vitriol my office has received over the last few weeks.”
“To those who still don’t believe these statues are linked to racism: you’re kidding yourself. Richmond, we’ve got work to do,” he added.
A public hearing for residents to weigh in on the future of the monuments dismantled under Stoney’s order is scheduled for August 3.
In the meantime, the Richmond Department of Public Works will temporarily remove a monument to Black tennis legend and social justice advocate Arthur Ashe, which also sits on Monument Avenue. After the monument was defaced last month, graffitied with the words “White Lives Matter,” the Ashe family advocated for its dismantling in the name of public safety.