Virginia to remove statue of Confederate general

A 130-year old statue of a Confederate general in Virginia is the latest to fall as monuments with racist connotations are taken down in several states amid widespread protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

Virginia’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, said on Thursday that the statue of Robert E Lee — the general who commanded Confederate troops in the Civil War — would be taken down from its position on Monument Avenue in Richmond, where it was first unveiled in 1890, 25 years after the Confederate states lost the civil war.

“That statue has been there for a long time. It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now,” Mr Northam said. He said the statue would be removed “as soon as possible” and go into storage while its future was decided. 

The monument is the latest to be either ordered removed or vandalised and torn down by civil rights protesters angry at the commemoration of the figures — often associated with the American Confederacy. It seceded from the US just months after the election of Abraham Lincoln, whom secessionists saw as a threat to the institution of slavery.

The actions follow the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by police officers in Minnesota. His death has triggered massive nationwide protests against police brutality carried out disproportionately against black Americans. 

In Birmingham, Alabama, mayor Randall Woodfin said he would complete the removal of a 115-year-old Confederate monument from a public park after protesters tried to tear it down themselves. Protesters in the city also successfully toppled a statue of Confederate sailor Charles Linn, erected in 2013, according to news reports. 

In Philadelphia, a statue of the city’s former police chief and mayor Frank Rizzo — who was accused of overseeing a police force that brutally targeted black people, as well as making racist remarks — was removed from its place across from the city hall after being vandalised. 

“The statue represented bigotry, hatred and oppression for too many people, for too long,” wrote Philadelphia’s mayor Jim Kenney on Twitter, posting a picture of the empty pavement where the monument had stood. “It is finally gone.” 

In Richmond, Virginia, once the capital of the Confederacy, more statues may be removed after mayor Levar Stoney said he wanted four other statues honouring Confederate figures to be removed from Monument Avenue. Richmond’s city council will need to approve the removals. 

The civil-rights movement has also cheered some local election results in recent days.

Steve King, a Republican congressman from Iowa, lost his bid for renomination on Wednesday in one of the biggest defeats of the 2020 primary elections. 

Mr King is a divisive official who has been reprimanded by his own party for racism. He was defeated by Randy Feenstra, a state senator, who will now have the chance to run for the seat as the Republican nominee in November. 

On Tuesday, Ella Jones became the first black person and the first woman to be elected mayor of Ferguson, Missouri. Six years ago, a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, a black teenager, in the city, triggering nationwide outrage and protests.