Richmond, Virginia, Mayor Levar Stoney ordered the immediate removal of all Confederate statues in the city, in part because of concerns about protesters being injured in trying to forcibly topple them, The Spokesman reported.
The Virginia city was, for a period of time, the capitol city of the Confederate States of America, and monuments to that part of the city’s history dot its landscape. In the past few weeks, following massive protests resulting from the death of George Floyd, protesters have already vandalized and/or forcibly toppled many of those statues.
Stoney is concerned about people getting hurt trying to forcibly remove those statues. Already at least one protester in Portsmouth, Virginia, has been seriously injured by a falling Confederate statue. As WHSV-TV reported, a protester was left in a coma when struck by falling debris from the statue as it was being torn down by other protesters.
“We have an urgent need to protect the public,” Stoney said in a statement.
In fact, the city had already been moving forward with a plan to eventually remove the city’s Confederate monuments. On Wednesday, the city officially took control of those memorials, following the passage of a state law that gave them that power.
The timetable for removing the statues put forth by the city was too slow for Stoney. The law had outlined a removal process that could take as long as 60 days, and the city was to vote later this week on a resolution calling for the removal of those statues.
Stoney said that time is of the essence.
“Today, I have the ability to do this through my emergency powers. I think we need to act today,” he said.
Already crews have shown up to remove one such statue, that of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, who like his colleague, Robert E. Lee, is one of the better-known Confederate generals to have served during the Civil War.
As WRIC-TV reported, the crews removing the Jackson statue were met by at least one protester, who sat in front of the statue and pleaded with workers not to remove it. Sheriff’s deputies turned up and took the protester away from the area.
Beyond trying to get ahead of protesters getting injured while attempting to damage statues, Stoney also said that removing the statues will bring “healing” to the city.
“[It’s] time to get rid of racist symbols. Frankly, it’s time to heal,” Stoney said.