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Roanoke City Council votes in favor of permanently removing Robert E. Lee monument

Monument was found damaged last month

Roanoke City Council votes to remove Robert E. Lee monument
Roanoke City Council votes to remove Robert E. Lee monument

ROANOKE, Va. – City leaders made their voices clear on Monday night: The Robert E. Lee statue in downtown Roanoke should be permanently removed.

As 10 News has reported, the statue was found toppled over last month.

[70-year-old Roanoke man charged with felony for damaging Confederate monument]

Roanoke City Council voted 7-0 on Monday night in favor of permanently removing the monument.

“(It’s) mission accomplished, from the stand point that we’ve been thinking about this and working on it but as I mentioned at tonight’s meeting we wanted to do it the right way,” Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea said.

Mayor Lea and Councilman Bill Bestpitch said the fight to remove the statue began nearly three years ago to the day following the deadly Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville. It wasn’t until a new law passed this year by the General Assembly giving local governments the power to either remove, contextualize or hold a referendum on monuments on government property came about that they were able to make it a reality.

“What we need to lose is glorifying the efforts to preserve slavery, celebrate Jim Crow, and honor massive resistance,” Bestpitch said.

For now, the monument will remain in storage where it has been since the damage occurred.

By the new law, council held a public hearing on the matter. It did so virtually due to COVID19 restrictions and ten people signed up.

“That’s not history, that’s glorification, historical interpretations are always changing as they should, this is why it’s not wise to set history in stone,” Gregory Samantha Rosenthal said.

“So if a flag or a block of stone defines who you are what you believe, or just your self worth, then you have bigger issues to deal with,” William Drury said.

Representatives from local museums, historical societies, battlefields or governments are asked to contact the Roanoke City Manager’s Office within the next 30 days with proposals of what to do with the monument.

If the City Manager’s Office doesn’t receive proposals from these groups, the city manager will consider options from others and decide where to go from there.

“We’ve got to keep moving forward, Roanoke is a forward progressive thinking city and we really showed that in the actions and the way we went about (this) vote,” Lea said.

Mayor Lea said the plaza, named for Robert E. Lee, will likely be re-named as well. But at this point they are taking things a step at a time.

About the Authors:

Shayne Dwyer is an award-winning journalist and a member of the 10 News team since May 2018.