The ‘City of the Monuments’ has officially begun losing the famous statues that gave it the moniker Wednesday. Work crews wielding a giant crane, harnesses and power tools wrested an imposing statue of Gen. Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson from its concrete pedestal along Richmond, Virginia’s famed Monument Avenue on Wednesday, just hours after the mayor ordered the removal of all Confederate statues from city land.
Mayor Levar Stoney’s decree came weeks after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the most prominent and imposing statue along the avenue: that of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which sits on state land. The removal of the Lee statue has been stalled pending the resolution of several lawsuits.
Jackson, a life long military man, was a Mexican-American war hero and Virginia Military Institute professor before resigning from the U.S. Army to serve Virginia. His leadership was pivotal in all of the Virginians early victories in the War Between the States before his death in 1863. He earned his nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run, when the Confederate lines were crumbling, Jackson’s brigade provided crucial reinforcements on Henry House Hill, demonstrating the discipline he instilled in his men. South Carolina General Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee Jr. exclaimed “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall… Rally behind the Virginians!”
The Jackson statue is the latest of several dozen Confederate symbols to be removed from public land in the U.S. in the five weeks since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota sparked a nationwide protest movement.
Work crews spent several hours Wednesday carefully attaching a harness to the massive Stonewall Jackson statue and using power tools to detach it from its base.
Flatbed trucks and other equipment were spotted at several other monuments as well. The city has roughly a dozen Confederate statues on municipal land, including one of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. Mayor Stoney said it will take several days to remove them.
The mayor said he also was moving quickly because protesters have already toppled several Confederate monuments and he is concerned that people could be hurt trying to take down the gigantic statues.
Stoney’s move came on the day a new state law took effect granting control of the monuments to the city. The law outlines a removal process that would take at least 60 days to unfold.
But during a City Council meeting Wednesday morning, Stoney balked as the council scheduled a special meeting for Thursday to formally vote on a resolution calling for the immediate removal of the statues.
Work crews arrived at the Jackson statue about an hour later.
During Wednesday’s meeting, city councilors expressed support for removing the statues, but several councilors said the council needed to follow the proper legal process.
Interim city attorney Haskell Brown said any claim that Stoney has the authority to remove the statues without following the state process would contradict legal advice he has previously given the council and administration.
“Richmond is no longer run by the rule of law – it has devolved into anarchy,” said Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Jack Wilson. “The loudest group of protesters or rioters are in control at any given moment. Caving to mob rule tells the mob that their violence and looting is the way to make change and that law and order is irrelevant. The Republican Party of Virginia renews its call for Stoney’s resignation on the grounds that his cowardice at a time that demands leadership again proves he is unfit to lead Virginia’s capital.”