RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Following Virginia’s removal Wednesday of the Robert E. Lee statue, pieces of what is one of the country’s largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy are temporarily headed for a neighboring county, according to a source with direct knowledge of the plans.
Preparations including street closures and other security measures started Tuesday night. The 21-foot-tall bronze likeness of Lee on a horse will be hoisted off its 40-foot pedestal Wednesday, 131 years after it was erected in the former capital of the Confederacy as a tribute to the Civil War leader.
Many consider the statue’s place of honor on Monument Avenue to be an offensive glorification of the South’s slave-holding past. Others argued that taking it down would amount to erasing history. Public officials resisted calls to remove it until the death of George Floyd under a police officer’s knee.
The 12-ton statue, which prompted the closure of a large portion of the area around the monument, will not come down in one piece. The source stated that the Lee statue will be cut at the waist.
The upper body will be removed first followed by Lee’s legs still attached to the horse. There are eight “pins” holding the statue up on the base.
After removal, the source said, the statue pieces will be taken to Virginia’s Goochland Women’s Correctional Center for temporary storage.
Crews on Thursday will remove plaques from the base of the monument and will replace a time capsule that is believed to be inside.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans for the statue’s removal in June 2020, 10 days after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. The plans then stalled until the Supreme Court of Virginia last week ruled against two lawsuits opposing its removal, clearing the way for Wednesday’s event.
In Richmond, a city that was the capital of the Confederacy for most of the Civil War, the Lee statue became the epicenter of last summer’s protest movement. The city has removed more than a dozen other pieces of Confederate statuary on city land since Floyd’s death.
The Lee statue was created by the internationally renowned French sculptor Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercie and is considered a masterpiece, according to its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, where it has been listed since 2007.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.