Virginia started preparations Tuesday to remove the largest remaining Confederate statue in the U.S., Richmond's Robert E. Lee monument. Crews erected protective fencing around the Monument Avenue area on Tuesday night, and the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily banned drones from flying within 2 nautical miles of the statue starting just after midnight Wednesday. The FAA said the ban, instituted for "Special Security Reasons," will last until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, once the statue is fully removed.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered the Lee statue taken down in July 2020, but legal challenges held up the decision. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that Northam could proceed. "Virginia's largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will come down this week," Northam said in a statement. "This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a Commonwealth." The statue will be stored in a secure state-owned facility.
That secure facility, Richmond's WRIC 8 News reports, is the Goochland Women's Correctional Center in a neighboring county. And the 12-ton statue won't be coming down in one piece, a source familiar with the plans told WRIC. "The Lee statue will be cut at the waist. The upper body will be removed first, followed by Lee's legs still attached to the horse." The plaques on the monument's base will be removed Thursday, The Washington Post adds, but the 40-foot granite pedestal itself will be kept in place until Richmond, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the surrounding community decide what to do with it.
The other four Confederate statues on Monument Avenue, owned by Richmond, were removed in 2020.