The reason for this order was that this statute had for the time of its erection in 1890 caused pain and embarrassment for people of African descent that the Lee Statute has inflicted on people of African descent. The Governor further stated: “I think it’s pretty apparent as we look around this country, there is pain… [and] [a]s a physician, I can recognize the pain along with a lot of other people and now is the time to heal. So we made this decision. We’re proud of this decision, and we’re taking a new direction in Virginia.” The governor went on to state, “There’s tremendous pain. It’s been going on for a long time, but it was brought into particular focus in Minneapolis. And then we’ve seen the protests here in Virginia, not only in Richmond, but in other cities and towns across Virginia. So the pain is real. I recognize that. And so I made the decision.”
Before the statute could be removed, several white persons living in the shadow of the statute filed a lawsuit in the Richmond Circuit Court in which they argued that Plaintiffs argue that the Governor had no power or authority to remove the Lee statute and the removal would violate restrictive covenants established in the 1887 and 1890 Deeds conveying the statute to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
On August 3, 2020 Judge Marchant granted a temporary injunction enjoining the Governor from carrying out his executive order to remove the statute the plaintiffs finding that the Plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their restrictive covenants claim. In granting the injunction Judge Marchant ruled that in balancing the equities that because the statute had “been maintained and protected by the Commonwealth since 1890” there was no burden on the Commonwealth. Nowhere in his decision did mention the pain embarrassment that the statute at inflicted on people of African descent and therefore there was no need to balance this concern against the length of time that the statute had been maintained.
On August 25, 2020, Judge Marchant dismissed with prejudice the pleading filed by Gov. Northam’s lawyers which included the following argument: “When the statue, pedestal, and real property were conveyed to the Commonwealth, Reconstruction had recently ended and the overwhelming view of those who held political power in Virginia (as opposed to the then-hundreds of thousands of Black Virginians who were being rapidly disenfranchised) was that Lee was a heroic figure to be celebrated and that the failure of his cause was a tragedy to be mourned. Today, Lee and other Confederate leaders are widely regarded as symbols of racism, injustice, and oppression, and the cause for which they fought a shameful blight on our Nation’s history. The statue has become an ever-more-painful wound and a focus of the anger and frustration felt by many who continue to suffer the effects of the disgraceful institution the Confederacy fought to protect…. Across the country, Confederate symbols are being taken down—with and without government action—as more and more Americans agree that such relics of the past cannot co-exist with the future they envision.”
In dismissing these arguments with prejudice, Judge Marchant clearly showed his lack of racial sensitivity to the very reason that the Governor decided to take the statute down. This is the reason that this petition must be signed by thousands of people and send to Judge Marchant so that he can be encouraged understand that his decision has added insult to the long-standing injury and pain that people of African descent have been exposed to for over 400 years.