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Statues Of Christopher Columbus And Robert E. Lee Were Removed From Chicago And Richmond

A Robert E. Lee High School in Virginia was also renamed for civil rights icon John Lewis.

Posted on July 24, 2020, at 11:20 a.m. ET

A crane removes a Christoper Columbus statue from its plinth amid nighttime darkness.
Tyler Lariviere / AP

A crane removes the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park from its plinth, on Friday.

Statues of Christopher Columbus have been removed from Chicago parks and a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee has been taken out of the Virginia state Capitol, as the movement to take down monuments linked to racism and colonialism continues to gather momentum in the United States.

Lee's name was also removed from a school in Fairfax County, Virginia, on Thursday, and renamed for civil rights icon John Lewis, who died last week at the age of 80.

Two statues of Columbus were removed from Chicago's Grant Park and Arrigo Park early Friday morning after protesters had tried to tear them down a week before.

In a statement, staff for Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the statues were being "temporarily removed...until further notice."

"It comes in response to demonstrations that became unsafe for both protesters and police, as well as efforts by individuals to independently pull the Grant Park statue down in an extremely dangerous manner," Lightfoot's staff said. "This step is about an effort to protect public safety and to preserve a safe space for an inclusive and democratic public dialogue about our city's symbols."

The statue of Lee was taken out of the Capitol in Richmond Thursday night at the order of Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn.

"Virginia has a story to tell that extends far beyond glorifying the Confederacy, whose primary objective in the Civil War was to preserve an ideology that maintained the enslavement of human beings. It is time for our Capitol to truly reflect our history," Filler-Corn said in a statement.

Her press release said artifacts commemorating eight Confederate leaders including Jefferson Davis and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were removed at the same time.

Graffiti reading "People Over Profit" is on a small barrier near grass surrounding the enormous statue of Robert E. Lee riding a horse. People surround the statue on bikes and in tent as the sun shines through clouds.
Ryan M. Kelly / Getty Images

The Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia.

Meanwhile, a Virginia judge is preparing to rule on the removal of another statue of Lee in Richmond.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant heard arguments over the removal of a statue of Lee located along Monument Avenue. The statue, which stands close to 60 feet tall and shows Lee on a horse, was ordered removed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. But William C. Gregory, a descendant of two people who signed a deed giving the statue and the land it sits on to the state, filed a lawsuit calling for it to remain in place, according to the Associated Press.

An earlier court ruling placed an injunction preventing removal of the statue. At the Thursday hearing, Virginia state Attorney General Mark Herring asked the court to remove the injunction and dismiss the suit. The complaint filed by lawyers for Gregory said that in accepting the statue the state had agreed to "care for and protect” it.

“[Gregory’s] family has taken pride for 130 years in this statue resting upon land belonging to his family and transferred to the Commonwealth in consideration of the Commonwealth contractually guaranteeing to perpetually care for and protect the Lee Monument,” said the suit filed by Gregory in early June.

Judge Marchant said he would issue a written ruling within the next 30 days, according to the AP.

The movement to take down monuments connected to racism and colonialism rose out of Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. At least 23 monuments in Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, have been removed or slated for removal, according to NBC News. Monuments to figures connected with slavery or colonialism have also been toppled in the UK, Belgium, and elsewhere.

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