RICHMOND (October 27, 2020) – Attorney General Herring won the Lee statue case today when Judge W. Reilly Marchant, in the Richmond Circuit Court, found that the statue was raised against a backdrop of white supremacy and that it is against public policy to keep it up, but the ruling is stayed pending appeal.
In his order, Judge Marchant notes that Virginia’s testimony showed that the Lee Monument was erected to honor the South’s “Lost Cause” and their way of life, which included slavery. Additionally, the Judge highlights that both the Senate and the House have passed budget language appropriating funds for the removal of the statue and repealing the 1889 Joint Resolution that directed the Commonwealth to maintain the statue in perpetuity which “clearly indicate the current public policy of the General Assembly, and therefore the Commonwealth, to remove the Lee Monument from its current position on the state owned property on Monument Avenue.”
“Today’s win is so important for the Commonwealth and its future as an inclusive, open, welcoming community. The Lee statue has held a place of prominence and stood as a memorial to Virginia’s racist past in the center of our capital city for entirely too long,” said Attorney General Herring. “The Lee statue does not represent who we have become as Virginians and it sends the wrong message to the rest of the world that we continue to venerate an individual who fought to maintain the enslavement of human beings. This decision puts Virginia one step closer on the path to finally bringing this divisive symbol down and I remain as dedicated as ever to ensuring that it is removed once and for all.”
In his order, Judge Marchant highlights that two of the Commonwealth’s expert witnesses, Dr. Ed Ayers and Dr. Kevin Gaines “testified extensively about the conditions in the Commonwealth, and the South in general, during the period of 1865 through 1890 and beyond…includ[ing] discussion of the purposes for which the Lee Monument was erected in 1890…their testimony overwhelmingly established the need of the southern citizenry to establish a monument to their ‘Lost Cause,’ and to some degree their whole way of life, including slavery.” He continues to say that, “their testimony described a post-war South where the white citizenry wanted to impose and state unapologetically their continued belief in the validity and honor of their ‘Lost Cause,’ and thereby vindicate their way of life and their former Confederacy.” He concludes by saying, “it was out of this backdrop that the erection of the Lee Monument took place.”
Additionally, Judge Marchant notes in the order that, “Dr. Gaines testified that today the monument stands as a contradiction to present societal values…[and] that there is a ‘consensus that the monuments are a troubling presence.’”
Judge Marchant concludes his order by saying “the Court orders that the temporary injunction against the Commonwealth herein…is hereby dissolved effective immediately, However…the Court orders the suspension of any execution upon this Judgment Order pending the resolution of a properly perfected appeal, and the Court further waives the requirements of any suspending bond.”