Virginia Supreme Court decision paves the way for the removal of controversial Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/AP) — The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled Thursday that the state can take down the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that became a symbol of racial injustice as it towered over Monument Avenue in the state’s capital for more than a century.

The decision came more than a year after Governor Ralph Northam directed the removal of the controversial Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond.

“I strongly believe we have to confront where we have been in order to shape where we are going,” Northam said last June. “Make no mistake, removing a symbol is important but it’s only a step. It doesn’t mean problems are solved, there are still monuments of inequities that exist in our commonwealth.

The removal of the statue was delayed after two lawsuits were filed by residents who attempted to block the removal of the 21-foot (6-meter) bronze equestrian sculpture, which shows Lee in military attire atop a 40-foot (12-meter) pedestal.

Separate lawsuits were filed by a group of residents who own property near the statue and a descendant of signatories to an 1890 deed that transferred the statue, pedestal and land they sit on to the state.

In two opinions, the Supreme Court rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments.

Their attorneys, Patrick McSweeney and Joseph Blackburn Jr. could not immediately be reached for comment on whether they plan to appeal.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Ralph Northam said his office would have a comment soon.

The full decision can be read online.

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