During the last six years, more than 300 symbols of the Confederacy and white supremacy have been taken down, while some 2000 still stand, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
“He went more quietly than some of the others did,” said Melody Barnes, who is black and lives on Monument Avenue near the circle where Lee had stood.
Moments after the statue came off its base, JaPharii Jones, the head of BLM 757, broke through the barricades and ran around the traffic circle carrying a Black Lives Matter flag. Capitol Police quickly descended on the metal barricades to prevent more people from breaking through.
State Senator Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, had just dropped her children at school and rushed to the site when she heard cheers go up. She ran to see, and a few minutes later, dripping with sweat, McClellan- who is black – fought back tears.
“I keep thinking about when this statue went up, John Mitchell said […] it’ll be a black man that takes it down,” McClellan said, referring to a legendary black newspaper editor from the Jim Crow era. “And then I saw the contractor take a picture in front of it,” she said, gesturing to Devon Henry, who is black and oversaw the tricky logistical effort. “I think the healing can begin.”
Henry, 43, faced death threats after his company’s role in removing Richmond’s other Confederate statues was made public last year, the Associated Press reported.
He said this was the 21st Confederate memorial he has taken down since last northern summer. It went quickly, he said, because his crew had a year to study images and had gained enormous experience removing others.
He, too, thought about the words of John Mitchell, he said. “That quote’s been sticking with me a long while, as I was going through planning this thing,” Henry said. “It’s definitely extremely meaningful.”
But after all the planning, and with so much at stake, his first reaction was simple: “I’m relieved,” he said.
On Thursday, workers were due to remove plaques from the monument’s base and replace a time capsule believed to be at the site with a new one. The base will remain in place as the community reimagines Monument Avenue.
Last Thursday, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously ruled in two cases that Northam could remove the statue. In 2020, the removal was challenged by nearby residents and a descendant of the family who transferred ownership of the statue to the state.
Reuters, The Washington Post