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Richmond’s Confederate Monuments Officially Removed By City Council

file photo of Richmond's city seal
FILE PHOTO: Roberto Roldan/VPM News

Richmond City Council voted unanimously Monday night to permanently remove all of the city’s Confederate statues. 

All of the statues, except the one to Confederate General A.P. Hill in the city’s Northside neighborhood, were already removed earlier this month by Mayor Levar Stoney. He did so using his powers under the State of Emergency, citing public safety concerns around protesters pulling down statues on their own. The vote from City Council makes Stoney’s decision to remove the monuments permanent.

Ninth District Councilman Michael Jones, who’s tried to put monument removal to a vote three times before, said City Council doesn’t deserve praise for simply reacting to mass protests.

“If we can’t do something as simple as take down racist statues, how are we ever really going to do true police reform or really get at this 23 percent poverty rate we have in this city? Those are going to require much heavier lifts,” Jones said.

The ordinance approved by City Council does not apply to the state-owned Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue. The future of that statue is currently tied up in litigation. 

Monday's vote to remove all of Richmond’s Confederate monuments is a direct response to more than two months of anti-racist and anti-police brutality protests. During the protests, demonstrators toppled three Confederate statues: Jefferson Davis on Monument Avenue, Williams Carter Wickham in Monroe Park, and the Howitzer Battalion memorial near VCU. They also pulled down a statue to Christopher Columbus in Byrd Park and a statue to Virginia’s First Regiment in Meadow Park. 

Taking down the statues was only one of the many demands protesters have laid out. 

They’ve also been asking for a civilian review board for police misconduct and sweeping changes to how police deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis. City Council has started a process to implement both demands, but they won’t be in place until much later this year. 

Organizer Chelsea Higgs Wise said City Council’s vote on Monday should be celebrated, but protesters will continue to be in the streets until their demands are met.

“We have the symbolism coming down, we’ve got some ordinances, but now we need the funding as well as the advocacy on all the [racist] systems and institutions, including the court system,” Higgs Wise said. 

Richmond and other Virginia localities were granted the ability to remove Confederate monuments and symbols by the General Assembly earlier this year. Under the state law, City Council will now have to offer the monuments to historical societies and museums for 30 days. Whether the monuments are displayed somewhere else or remain in storage will ultimately be up to City Council to decide.