Work crews began taking down an enormous monument to Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart, the third major statue to be cleared away in less than a week as the Confederacy’s former capital rushes to remove symbols of oppression in response to protests against police brutality and racism.
Crews went up in a cherry-picker with power tools on Tuesday to separate the bronze equestrian statue from its granite base, strapping it into a harness. A crane was ready to lift it onto a truck to be driven away.
The Stuart statue was installed on Richmond’s Monument Avenue in 1907, a time when white leaders across the South sought to glorify the “lost cause” of the Civil War and suppress attempts by Black people to assert their equality.
It depicts James Ewell Brown (J.E.B.) Stuart, commander of the Cavalry Corps of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, in full uniform with a sword at his side, turned east as his horse faces north. The statue is 4.6 metres high, atop a 2.1 metre pedestal.
Inscriptions on the base are filled with accolades to Stuart, who was fatally wounded by a Union soldier and died at age 31 on May 12, 1864.
“He gave his life for his country and saved his city from capture,” reads one inscription.
The Stuart monument is one of several targeted by protesters in Richmond since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis prompted nationwide demonstrations. Richmond Police declared an unlawful assembly on June 21 after protesters tried to pull it down with ropes.
Mayor Levar Stoney, citing his emergency powers on July 1, ordered the removal of all city-owned Confederate statues. Stonewall Jackson’s likeness was removed that day, followed by a statue of naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury. Stoney has said the statues will be placed in storage while the city seeks public input on what to do with them.
Stuart’s was the last major statue left standing, other than a massive monument to Gen. Robert E. Lee that’s on state land. The Lee monument also is slated for removal, but that has been blocked at least temporarily by an injunction issued in one of several lawsuits filed after Gov. Ralph Northam ordered its removal last month.