State Attorney General Mark Herring filed papers with the Virginia Supreme Court on Wednesday formally asking the body to reject an appeal that seeks to keep the controversial Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond from being removed.
The appeal was filed with the high court Monday on behalf of the plaintiffs, a group of Richmond residents living near the monument who have been challenging Governor Ralph Northam’s authority to remove the statute in court since summer.
“It is time for this obstruction to end,” Herring said in a statement. “The courts have carefully considered all the claims and arguments and found that removal of the Lee statue is lawful, and in my opinion, a necessary step as we seek to move forward as a united Commonwealth.”
Specifically, Herring filed a brief in opposition to the plaintiffs’ appeal in which he urges the court to outright reject it and dissolve an injunction barring the removal of the statue that had been put in place during earlier court proceedings.
Herring also asked, if the court decides to hear the appeal, for those proceedings to be expedited so that arguments will take place by no later than June 2021, and the case be fully resolved by the end of the court’s current term.
“Even though we have defeated every single challenge to the statue’s removal, it nevertheless remains in place because of an injunction that we believe is improper and should be dissolved,” Herring said. “Otherwise, this handful of individuals will continue to impose their will over the will of the people of Virginia as expressed through their General Assembly and their governor.”
The Virginia Star reached out to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Patrick McSweeney, for comment but did not get a response before press time.
In October, Richmond Circuit Judge W. Reilly Marchant sided with Northam and the state that the decision to remove the statue was lawful after finding the Lee monument was raised as a backdrop of the Confederacy and keeping it up would go against contemporary public policy as set by state legislators.
A couple days after this decision, however, Marchant clarified his ruling to keep the injunction in place pending a proper appeal by the plaintiffs.
The petition for appeal filed by McSweeney on Monday alleges that there were numerous errors in Marchant’s October ruling.
Earlier that same day, the Department of General Services had fencing installed around the monument grounds to ensure the safety of workers and visitors as part of its plan to eventually remove the statue.
Richmond’s Confederate statues, especially Lee, become a focal point of protests that broke out last summer over social inequality and police brutality following the death of George Floyd while in police custody.
As a result of the protests, Northam ordered for the statue to be removed on June 4, which was subsequently blocked by legal challenges at the time and allowed the monument to remain standing for months.
Now, the Lee statue is covered with graffiti as well as Black Lives Matter messaging and the monument grounds had transformed into a communal space for locals before the fencing was erected.
– – –
Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Background Photo “Virginia Supreme Court Building” by Morgan Riley. CC BY 3.0.