The fate of the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue is now before the Virginia Supreme Court where Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring filed papers Wednesday asking the justices to turn down an appeal blocking its removal.
A fence was installed enclosing the circle around the monument on Monday as part of the Virginia Department of General Services’ plan to remove the statue. However, an injunction remains in place blocking its removal pending the appeal.
Although the plaintiffs waited until the last possible day to file their appeal, Attorney General Herring has filed his brief in opposition just two days later, underscoring his commitment to resolving this matter and removing the Lee statue as quickly as possible.
Efforts to remove the statue, which became a focal point for Black Lives Matter and other protests last year, were blocked when five residents near the statue filed a lawsuit.
In October, Richmond Circuit Judge W. Reilly Marchant ruled against the plaintiffs and held that the decision to remove the statue was lawful. But Marchant suspended lifting an injunction barring the statue’s removal while any appeal is pending.
The plaintiffs filed a petition for an appeal of Marchant’s ruling with the Virginia Supreme Court on Monday alleging half a dozen errors by the judge in the case.
Patrick McSweeney, who is representing the plaintiffs, noted in an email that, the injunction was still in force and said the fencing may just be Gov. Ralph Northam posturing to suggest that the removal is inevitable.
"We don’t think so. Our petition is strong," wrote McSweeney.
In a media release Thursday, Herring's office said that Marchant, "found, as we have stated from the beginning, that the Lee statue was raised against a backdrop of white supremacy as part of a concerted propaganda campaign to recast the Civil War and obscure the true purpose of the Confederacy."
"This statue and its message are incompatible with the Commonwealth we want to be and it is time for it to come down," says the release.
The attorney general's office is asking the justices to reject hearing the appeal, or if the high court decides to hear the case, to do so as quickly as possible.