On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin while under arrest for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill. When video of the killing surfaced, showing a white officer murdering an unarmed black man, anti-racist and anti-police violence protests erupted in cities around the world. Led in large part by Black Lives Matter activists, demonstrations across the U.S. consisting of thousands of participants continued for nearly six months.
Four days after the death of George Floyd, local protests began in Richmond, Virginia. As protestors filled the streets, Richmond’s numerous Confederate memorials and statues quickly became targets for defacement as they served as symbols of the city’s history of white supremacy and systemic racism. Over the month of June, protestors successfully toppled five Confederate and non-Confederate monuments including statues of General Williams Carter Wickman, Jefferson Davis, Christopher Columbus, as well as the Howitzer Monument, and the First Virginia Regiment Monument. In addition, the Memorial to the Women of the Confederacy, which serves as the national headquarters for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, was also set aflame.
In response to the protest, on June 4, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced plans to remove the General Robert E. Lee statue from Monument Avenue. The next day, the Richmond City Council unanimously voted to remove all Confederate statues within the city limits. Following two months of daily demonstrations, in early July the city of Richmond officially removed three Confederate monuments dedicated to J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Matthew Fontaine Maury, from their locations on Monument Avenue. The last monument to be removed from Monument Avenue was the Robert E. Lee monument. The Supreme Court ruled in September 2021 that the monument could be legally removed, it was removed on September 8, 2021.
1. Burch, Audra D. S., Weiyi Cai, Gabriel Gianordoli, Morrigan McCarthy, and Jugal K. Patel. “How Black Lives Matter Reached Every Corner of America.” The New York Times. June 13, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/13/us/george-floyd-protests-cities-photos.html.
2. Duster, Chandelis. “Robert E. Lee Statue on Historic Virginia Street Removed.” CNN. Cable News Network, September 8, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/08/politics/robert-e-lee-statue-richmond-virginia-removal/index.html.
3. Levenson, Michael. “Protesters Topple Statue of Jefferson Davis on Richmond’s Monument Avenue.” The New York Times. June 11, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/11/us/Jefferson-Davis-Statue-Richmond.html
4. Robinson, Mark. “It’s unanimous: All nine Richmond City COuncil members back removal of Confederate monuments on Monument Avenue,” Richmond Times-Dispatch. June 5, 2020, https://richmond.com/news/local/its-unanimous-all-nine-richmond-city-council-members-back-removal-of-confederate-monuments-on-monument/article_a639a9e9-6757-5278-8da5-bf498241afb9.html5. Wamsley, Laurel. “Judge Orders Richmond’s Robert E. Lee Statue Can Be Removed.” NPR. October 27. 2020,https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/10/27/925407770/judge-orders-richmonds-robert-e-lee-statue-can-be-removed.