Robert E. Lee statue goes out with a whimper

The massive statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee that existed in the former confederate capital city of Richmond, Virginia has come to an ignominious end, removed from its pedestal on a prominent part of the city, cut up into pieces, and hauled away and placed in a storage unit.

A statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee that towered over Richmond for generations was taken down, cut into pieces and hauled away Wednesday, as the former capital of the Confederacy erased the last of the Civil War figures that once defined its most prominent thoroughfare.

Hundreds of onlookers erupted in cheers and song as the 21-foot-tall bronze figure was lifted off a pedestal and lowered to the ground. The removal marked a major victory for civil rights activists, whose previous calls to dismantle the statues had been steadfastly rebuked by city and state officials alike.

The 21-foot (6-meter) bronze sculpture was installed in 1890 atop a granite pedestal about twice that tall. The sculpture was perched in the middle of a state-owned traffic circle, and it stood among four other massive Confederate statues that were removed by the city last summer.

Once the statue was on the ground, the crew used a power saw to cut it in two along the general’s waist, so that it could be hauled under highway overpasses to an undisclosed state-owned facility until a decision is made about its future.

Within hours, the pieces were gone. They were hauled away on a flatbed truck to cheers from the remaining crowd and claps of thunder from a midday storm. The pedestal is to remain for now, although workers are expected to remove a time capsule from the structure on Thursday.

The work proceeded under a heavy police presence, with streets closed for blocks around the area, but no arrests were reported, and no counter protesters emerged.

After a rally of white supremacists in the city of Charlottesville erupted into violence in 2017, other Confederate monuments started falling around the country. But at the time, local governments in Virginia were hamstrung by a state law protecting memorials to war veterans. That law was amended by the new Democratic majority at the Statehouse and signed by Northam, allowing localities to decide the monuments’ fate as of July 1, 2020.

The removal was greeted with cheers and the singing of the derisive, “Sha na na na, Sha na na na, Hey, hey, hey, Good bye”. What surprised me was the lack of counter-protestors. This statue had been a rallying point for neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I thought that they would use the removal as another occasion to energize their followers. Have they resigned themselves to the loss of monuments honoring the confederacy? I hope so.


  1. Jörg says

    I thought that they would use the removal as another occasion to energize their followers.

    The Nazis would have been jeered when the statue came down. Imagine the scene. Imagine the photos and videos later published. They would not have wanted that kind or PR.

  2. rockwhisperer says

    Instead of just storing it away, they ought find a casting facility that will carve it up and offer it (at a reasonable price, there’s some work involved) to student artists. Artist brings mold + school ID, they get a piece of the statue cast into their own creation. First come, first served.

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