Concrete barriers installed around Lee statue in Virginia

Jun 17, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Concrete barriers were installed Wednesday morning around the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has been ordered to be removed from a prominent avenue in Virginia's capital city, hours after demonstrators tore down a different Confederate monument.

Crews in Richmond began installing what appeared to be about 3-foot-tall (1-meter-tall) cement blocks along the sidewalk surrounding the statue on Monument Avenue, according to video obtained by news outlets. Gov. Ralph Northam announced earlier this month that the statue would be removed and placed in storage while its future was determined.

Lawsuits have been filed seeking to block the move.

The Virginia Department of General Services said it was erecting the barriers “to protect the safety of everyone speaking out to make their voices heard as well as the structure itself,” according to a statement from the agency.

The Lee statue, along with other monuments along the avenue and throughout the city, have been rallying points and sites of clashes with police during demonstrations that began more than two weeks ago following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck while he pleaded for air.

The addition of the barriers comes shortly after demonstrators in Richmond tore down another Confederate statue in the city Tuesday night, news outlets reported.

The Howitzers Monument located near Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park campus was toppled after protesters who spent the night marching in the rain used a rope to pull it down from its pedestal. The paint-splattered statue was seen face down on the ground as the rain continued overnight in Virginia’s capital city, according to a video from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

It's the third Confederate statue, and the fourth monument, to be torn down by demonstrators in Virginia.

Statues of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham as well as of Christopher Columbus were toppled by demonstrators in recent weeks.

Protesters in Richmond started their march Tuesday night advocating for the removal of all Confederate statues, establishing a civilian review board over police actions and defunding the police, among other things, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Before its toppling, the Howitzers Monument showed a Confederate artilleryman standing in front of a gun. It was erected in 1892 to memorialize the city’s Civil War artillery unit, according to the Encyclopedia of Virginia.

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