Crews continue work to remove Richmond’s Confederate statues

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EDS NOTE: OBSCENITY – Workers remove the statue of Confederate Naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury on Monument Avenue Thursday July 2, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Maury was better known for his work in oceanography and other sciences before the Civil War. His statue is the second removed since a new state law was enacted on July first. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Work crews were back at work Thursday removing Confederate monuments from Virginia’s capital city, a process that began last week after Mayor Levar Stoney ordered all city-owned Confederate statues cleared away amid weeks of protests over police brutality and racism.

Crews returned to the site of a monument honoring Confederate naval commander and scientist Matthew Fontaine Maury. A statute of Maury was removed last week, but a large bronze globe that was part of the monument was left behind.

The Maury statue was unveiled in 1929 — the last of five Confederate statues erected on Richmond’s Monument Avenue.

Four other monuments were removed last week, and a statue of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was taken down by crews Tuesday.

On Wednesday, workers used a crane to pluck a bronze female figure known as the South’s “Vindicatrix” from the remains of a monument to Jefferson Davis, the Washington Post reported. Also on Wednesday, crews took down the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

Work to remove the statues began on July 1, the day a new state law took effect giving local authorities control over war memorials on their property.

Stoney said he was invoking his emergency powers to immediately remove the statues, saying he was concerned about public safety amid continuing protests and fears that protesters could get hurt if they tried to bring down the enormous statues themselves.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday by an unnamed plaintiff asks for an emergency injunction to halt the removal of the statues. The lawsuit alleges that Stoney violated state law by ordering the immediate removal of the monuments.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that a Confederate heritage group wants to display the statues on private property. The Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said it has been working to find land in Virginia to display the “sacred” memorials, said Andrew Bennett Morehead, a spokesman for the Tennessee-based group.

“Those who wish to view these memorials can do so, and those who are not so inclined are free from the presence of these memorials on public property,” Morehead said in the letter to the Richmond City Council.

Richmond’s largest statue left standing is on state land — the massive monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Its removal, under the orders of Gov. Ralph Northam, has been blocked at least temporarily by a court injunction.

The statues were erected decades after the Civil War, during an era when Southern states were crushing attempts to achieve equality for Black people.

After years of little change, a growing number of these Confederate symbols are being removed, prompted by nationwide protests against police brutality and racism that appear to have inspired a profound shift in American thinking.

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