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Final Confederate Statue Removed from Monument Avenue

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After being pulled down from its pedestal, the statue of Robert E. Lee was cut in half at its waist. (Photo: Julia Rendleman)
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Workers attach ropes to the statue of Robert E. Lee, preparing for its removal. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)
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An observer who brought binoculars to witness the statue's removal. (Photo: Julia Rendleman)
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Observers cheer as the statue of Lee is removed from its Monument Avenue pedestal. (Photo: Julia Rendleman)
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Person hands over poster
An artist from Studio Two Three gives out a printed poster that reads “giddy up loser.” (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)
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Whittney Evans and Patrick Larsen reported this story.

Today, hundreds of people cheered as crews removed the last Confederate statue on Richmond’s Monument Avenue from its pedestal.

Removal began at 8 a.m. and finished within the hour. After, the monument was split into two parts and transferred to a secure storage location.

Statue dangling by ropes
The torso of the Lee Statue is carried away after being severed from its legs. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

University of Richmond students attended with their professor, Thad Williamson, a former city council candidate and mayoral adviser.

One of those students, Christian Herald, questioned the celebratory atmosphere. Ending racism “starts and ends with policies,” she said. “There’s no point in taking down the statue of a racist when you don’t have antiracist policies to back that up. There’s no point in honoring Black and brown Richmonders when you’ve destroyed Black and brown communities in order to build these spaces.”

statue with ropes around it
Someone watches as a crane prepares to remove the statue of Lee. (Photo: Julia Rendleman)

Her view was shared by Alexcia Cleveland, a public historian who protested against racial injustice and the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last summer. She  called the removal “bittersweet.”

“It’s really exciting to see that come down,” Cleveland said. “But I do also have mixed feelings because it is kind of overshadowing, once again, the more material issues that really affect people’s lives like police brutality.”

Marland Buckner lives steps away from the monument. He said symbols are important in public life and celebrated the statue’s removal.

“There’s a reason that monument went up,” Buckner said. “And there’s a reason that monument went down. And what we’ve got to do is understand the relationship between these symbolic gestures and the hard work of unwinding the chaos and the brutality that those symbols helped create.”

Statue dangles
The statue of Lee suspended in the air following its removal. (Photo: Julia Rendleman)