RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The country’s largest Confederate statue, and the last one standing on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, was removed this morning. The Robert E. Lee statue weighs more than 12 tons and was lifted off its granite pedestal in one piece. It was then deconstructed into two pieces in order to transport the statue.
The 40-foot pedestal will remain in place for now, with its final destination to be determined by a community-driven event to re-imagine Monument Avenue.
8News reporters were on the scene providing updates throughout the day.
Community Church of God in Christ is located right by the site of the former Robert E. Lee Monument. 8News Reporter Kerri O’Brien spoke with Pastor David Wright about the statue’s removal on Wednesday evening.
“It’s a great day, it’s a wonderful day, an outstanding day,” Wright said.
He welcomed the removal of Lee which towered six stories over his church in the Fan. He said when the statue came down, he cried.
The pastor said seeing it come down is more than symbolic.
“It’s an altar of worship and it’s kept the spirit of confederacy, rebellion and divisiveness in our community,” Wright said.
Due to thunderstorms in the area, crews wrapped up at the area where the Robert E. Lee statue once stood around 3 p.m. Prior to leaving for the day, both of the plates on the pedestal were removed.
The next step will be for contractors to find and remove the time capsule supposedly located inside of the pedestal. Following the removal of the time capsule, a new 2021 time capsule will take its place.
Road closures and other restrictions will stay in place through Thursday.
The two pieces of the statue were hauled away at about 1:45 p.m. on a flatbed truck. The bust was wrapped in a tarp and the larger bottom piece of the statue hung over the side of the truck.
According to sources, the pieces are being taken to the Goochland Women’s Correctional Center on State Route 6 for temporary storage.
8News Digital Reporter Tyler Thrasher was at the removal of the Lee Monument all morning. He recorded this timelapse video before the Lee statue came down.
Virginia and local leaders are hopeful that the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue will allow public monuments to honor the full truth of the state’s past.
“It is time to display history as history, and use the public memorials to honor the full and inclusive truth of who we are today and in the future,” Gov. Northam said.
The Lee statue was erected in 1890, a generation after the Civil War, during a time in which southern states were working to reinforce white supremacist systems and structures across their governments, services, and societies, Northam’s office said in a statement.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and city council echoed Northam’s remarks in a statement saying that Monument Avenue is now free of oppressive symbols of Richmond’s Confederate past.
City officials acknowledged that removing the monuments does not remove the systems created by people who put up the statues.
“We are dedicated to the reflection, policymaking and barrier-breaking required to truly move forward as an inclusive city, the city’s statement said. “Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy, but a capital of honesty, of compassion and of growth.”
Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao said that the university celebrates change that helps advance a more inclusive world.
“The removal of the Lee Monument, just blocks away from campus, represents that type of change. VCU is a transformative, inclusive and diverse university and health system located in the heart of a dynamic, diverse city and commonwealth. This is an historic moment in the never-ending mission to promote inclusion and opportunity for all human beings,” Rao stated.
Hundreds of people gathered in the area around the Lee monument to watch the statue’s removal. Cheers were heard throughout the crowd when the statue was lifted off its pedestal.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney shared his reaction in a video on Twitter with the tweet, “A long time coming.” In the video, he counts down to the removal and cheers along with the crowd.
A long time coming. pic.twitter.com/CF9ayfgnN2— Mayor Levar M. Stoney (@LevarStoney) September 8, 2021
Work continues on the massive Robert E. Lee statue after it was removed from its pedestal earlier today. The torso has been wrapped and loaded onto a truck ready for transport. Work crews are placing straps around the rest of the statue in what looks like preparations to remove the base in one piece.
The Robert E. Lee statue is being deconstructed. Since the statue was removed from the pedestal, crews have been working on the torso area and ultimately separated the bust of the statue. Once dismantled, the pieces will be transported to another location.
8news reported yesterday that the statue pieces are temporarily being taken to Goochland County, according to a source with direct knowledge of the plans.
Tensions are high this morning for some people following the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue. 8News reporters on the scene witnessed two men arguing about the meaning of the statue and others trying to jump the fence. One man was successful.
Police have told the crowd that if they don’t want to get arrested, they need to step back.
A fence around the Lee circle has been in place for months, but fences blocking nearby streets and keeping the crowd further back and away from the grassy area around the monument were put in place last night.
Shortly after 9 a.m., right after the Lee statue came down, a man carrying a Black Lives Matter flag jumped the fence around the monument and ran around the area.
#NOW: A man carrying a “Black Lives Matter” flag hopped the fence & took off around the Lee circle. This happened moments after the statue was hoisted off its pedestal. @8NEWS Watch: pic.twitter.com/MmbOTOS99S— Autumn Childress (@achildresstv) September 8, 2021
Roads around the Lee monument have been closed since Tuesday and will remain closed through Saturday. Street signs in the area indicate where parking is temporarily not permitted. A number of tow trucks have been seen in the area this morning as Richmond police and others patrol the area.
Reporter Kerri O’Brien saw cars being ticketed and towed and counted six tow tricks in a two-block radius. Dozens of vehicles were ticketed and towed.
“I am kind of surprised they’re having to move cars this morning,” said Richmond resident Mike Hoekstra.
Hoekstra said he doesn’t understand why parking restrictions will continue days after the statue’s removal. since the statue is now down.
He said, “Then why are we doing this through Saturday? That’s a substantial margin of error for a process that seems to already have succeeded.”
Richmond Police said the parking restrictions are to accommodate the Commonwealth’s operation. Late Wednesday, officials with the operation said the restrictions could be lifted earlier but right now are still in place through at least Thursday. Some parking accommodations have been provided to residents. People who still need parking assistance can contact their neighborhood association.
RICHMOND: Park Avenue is littered with tow trucks. I’ve never seen this many in one spot. pic.twitter.com/LqXstmbmhY— Tyler Thrasher (@TylerJThrasher) September 8, 2021
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring made remarks following the statue’s removal.
Gov. Northam said this has been a long time coming and is important for Virginia’s healing. Northam thanked Virginians for doing the right thing after 402 years of history.
“With the removal of this grandiose monument to a past that no longer represents who we are as a Commonwealth, we can turn the page to a new chapter,” AG Herring told reporters.
8News reporter Alex Thorson asked folks watching the removal how it made them feel.
“Long time coming. Feels like one step in the right direction,” said Richard Son, a long-time Richmond resident. Son said he’s feeling “at peace” and that the removal gives him a “sense of pride.”
“I guess it makes you feel like people are listening,” he said.
A crowd that had gathered to see the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue cheered as it was lifted off its pedestal.
The removal happened quickly after crew members were working for about an hour to saw the statue off its pedestal and secure it with rope. The Lee statue was on its way to the ground within seconds while the crowd sang, “Na na na na, hey hey, hey, goodbye.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and First Lady of Virginia Pam Northam have arrived at the Robert E. Lee Monument to watch the removal process.
Gov. Northam announced his intentions to have the statue removed in the summer of 2020 — 10 days after George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer sparked protests over police brutality and racism in cities across the country, including Richmond.
Attorney General Mark Herring will also be attending the statue’s removal. After Gov. Northam ordered the removal of the state-owned statue, Herring defeated every legal challenge that attempted to keep the statue towering over Monument Avenue.
Crews have arrived at the Lee Monument and they are starting to strap the statue. The Lee Monument weighs 12 tons.
Crew workers wrapped rope around the entire base of the statue. The crane will be used to hoist the statue off its pedestal.
The public viewing area just east of the monument opened up at 8 a.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis.
8News checked in with Richmond Police this morning and they said that as of now there are no security concerns. But, they aren’t taking any chances — fencing lines have been installed around Monument Avenue ahead of the event.
State, Capitol and Richmond Police are coordinating security and there are some street closures and parking restrictions that remain in effect until Saturday night.
Here’s a look at Monument Avenue ahead of the removal of the Lee statue.