Judge blocks removal of confederate statue in Virginia

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June 9 (UPI) -- A Richmond judge temporarily blocked a plan by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's administration to remove a Confederate statue of General Robert E. Lee from a local monument for 10 days.

A descendent of the family that donated the statue of Lee on horseback for the monument in 1890 filed a lawsuit against Northam and the director of the Department of General Services, which would remove the statue.

A second lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond claims removing the statue would violate landmark protections.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo granted a temporary injunction to stop the state from removing the statue while the merits of the first case were determined.

Northam announced last week he would use powers under Virginia code to remove the monument and other Confederate icons in the state capitol, after the unrest following the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Rita Davis, Northam's attorney, said Tuesday that the governor's office was expecting to lawsuits over the removal of the statue and was prepared to litigate in court.

"Though this monument was cast in the image of General Robert E. Lee, the purpose of this monument was to recast Virginia's history to fit a narrative that minimized a devastating evil perpetrated on African Americans during the darkest part of our past," Davis said.

Northam said Tuesday that he remains committed to removing the monument.

"This is a statue that is divisive. It needs to come down and we are on very legal solid grounds to have it taken down," he said.

In December, Democratic lawmakers urged Northam to remove a statue of Lee that represents Virginia in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Lee's presence in the National Statuary Hall Collection "serves as a prevalent reminder of Virginia's disturbing racial legacy," lawmakers wrote in a letter.

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