Judge Blocks The Removal Of Confederate Statue In Richmond, Va.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
All right. To Richmond, Va., now - that is where a judge has put a 10-day halt on plans to remove a monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The removal was announced just last week by Democratic Governor Ralph Northam during nationwide protests to end police brutality. Mallory Noe-Payne of member station WVTF has more.
MALLORY NOE-PAYNE, BYLINE: As recently as yesterday morning, crews were inspecting the 130-year-old monument to figure out how to safely take it down. But later that same day, a Richmond judge issued an injunction while a lawsuit makes its way through court. The suit is based on a deed from 1890 that gave the statue, pedestal and land over to the state. A descendant of one of those donors says the document obligates the governor to, quote, "faithfully guard" and "affectionately protect" the statue.
RICHARD SCHRAGGER: The language just might be a kind of instruction that doesn't have legal effect, a kind of rhetorical flourish.
NOE-PAYNE: University of Virginia legal expert Richard Schragger says the first question courts will ask is whether that language is binding. Speaking to reporters today, Governor Ralph Northam says the monument needs to come down. The administration's legal counsel Rita Davis says they expected a lawsuit and are prepared to fight it.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
RITA DAVIS: The governor's decision today to continue forward with trying to remove this monument takes us a step closer to reclaiming the truth of Virginia's history and to reclaim it for all Virginians. And we look forward to defending that in court.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Tear it down. Tear it down. Tear it down.
NOE-PAYNE: For 11 days and nights, the statue has become a rallying point for protesters against racism and a memorial to victims of police violence. Local organizer and activist Jasmine Leeward says the community is realizing the power of their collective voice.
JASMINE LEEWARD: I don't think the momentum is going to be stopped. I think the statue coming down is inevitable. I think that we are all ready to see something here that affirms and shows the value of everyone that lives here.
NOE-PAYNE: Others suggest taking the monument down may do more to protect it than leaving it up. Over the weekend, demonstrators managed to pull down a much smaller Confederate monument in a nearby park.
For NPR News, I'm Mallory Noe-Payne in Richmond.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.