Work crews removed a statue of Stonewall Jackson on Wednesday following orders by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. Stoney initiated emergency powers on grounds that the statue of the Confederate general represented an imminent risk to public health.
In a statement this morning, Mayor Stoney ordered the immediate removal of “multiple monuments in the city, including Confederate statues.”
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge, and protesters attempt to take down Confederate statues themselves or confront others who are doing so, the risk grows for serious illness, injury, or death,” Mayor Stoney said. “We have an urgent need to protect the public.”
The mayor added that the removal of the monuments would work towards helping the public tackle its legacy with Confederate rule.
The removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue was conducted live on television and broadcast on Twitter.
The mayor’s emergency orders went against a vote by the city council, which opted to have discussions pending the statue’s removal alongside other monuments on Monument Avenue. The city council’s vote was to be taken Thursday.
Stoney argued that Richmond’s present state of emergency gave him the authority to remove the statues, and says that he remains confident in his interpretation of the law. The measure received support from some city council members, including Councilman Mike Jones, who has been an outspoken advocate for the monuments’ removal.
"It's history,” said Councilman Jones. “It's history being made. That's why I'm out here. And so people are going to get upset about the process. I think it's the right thing to do, at the right time. I could say it's 130 years, too late, but in light of all the protesting and everything that's going on, I know a lot of people in Richmond want to get to our new norm. So I'm ready.”
"I'm proud to be in this city. I'm proud to be a part of this moment," said Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch, who voiced her support for the mayor. "I think this is going to be read about in textbooks, all across the nation, and hopefully across the world for the rest of our human existence as long as we have history."
Stoney said that the monuments would cost $1.8 million to remove, and that the money would come from the city’s Department of Public Works—a measure some say could’ve been better spent elsewhere.