After more than 100 years, the statue of Confederate ‘Stonewall’ Jackson on Monument Avenue comes down
Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/2/2020, 6 p.m.
Goodbye, “Stonewall” Jackson.
So long, J.E.B. Stuart, Matthew Fontaine Maury and maybe A.P. Hill.
The removal of city-owned statues of those Confederates and other champions of slavery and white supremacy began on Wednesday, with the bronze statue of Confederate Gen. Jackson hauled from the perch it has occupied for more than 100 years at Monument Avenue and Arthur Ashe Boulevard.
Cheers rang out from hundreds of people watching at the intersection as a large crane hoisted the statue from its granite base. Bells from a nearby church began to peal, the crowd jubilant even in the sudden downpour near the end of the 31⁄2-hour job to secure the heavy statue and carefully remove it from its base.
With the entire operation being livestreamed on social media, more than 250,000 people reportedly tuned in to see the statue being lifted and then lowered onto a flat-bed truck. It was taken to an undisclosed storage facility, where city officials said it will remain until a decision is made on what to do with it.
Chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Take it down” erupted from the crowd.
The swift action marks a historic moment for the former capital of the Confederacy, where such oversized symbols of oppression seemed permanently affixed to the landscape. “Today is a monumental step in the history of the City of Richmond,” Delegate Lamont Bagby, chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said in a statement later Wednesday evening.
“The long overdue removal of these statues is an important step toward honestly and clearly addressing our city, our Commonwealth and our country’s past. This removal was an answer to the countless calls from our Virginia communities, our members and many others to take Virginia into a new, more just tomorrow.”
The prospect that Richmond would follow in the footsteps of other big and small localities that already had removed Confederate statuary had long seemed remote, but July 1 marked the city’s day of independence from such icons of the “Lost Cause.” The Virginia General Assembly, for the first time under Democratic control in more than two decades, voted earlier this year to give localities control over Confederate statues within their jurisdictions beginning July 1.
To get the city’s statues down quickly, Mayor Levar M. Stoney declared a public safety emergency early Wednesday in his capacity as director of emergency management and authorized the city Department of Public Works to remove the statues and place them in storage to await a plan of disposal.
The only Confederate statue that is to remain is the largest, that of Gen. Robert E. Lee at Monument and Allen avenues. That statue is owned by the state, and Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s effort to remove it is now tied up in a court fight.
The exact timetable for removal of the other city-owned statues on Monument Avenue, including those of J.E.B. Stuart and Matthew Fontaine Maury, was uncertain at Free Press deadline on Wednesday night.
The city has been under a state of emergency since March 31 because of the outburst of protests sparked by a police officer’s killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The state of emergency is to continue now until the end of July.