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No immediate ruling on motion to dismiss Robert E. Lee statue lawsuit

Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking to have the injunction lifted and lawsuit tossed

FILE - This June 27, 2017, file photo, shows a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the middle of a traffic circle on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. Vestiges of the Civil War and Jim Crow segregation are coming down across the Old Confederacy as part of a national reckoning on race and white supremacy. A diversifying Democratic Party hopes the changes in symbols are part of a more fundamental shift in a region that dominated by Republicans for a generation  and white conservative Democrats a century before that. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
FILE - This June 27, 2017, file photo, shows a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the middle of a traffic circle on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. Vestiges of the Civil War and Jim Crow segregation are coming down across the Old Confederacy as part of a national reckoning on race and white supremacy. A diversifying Democratic Party hopes the changes in symbols are part of a more fundamental shift in a region that dominated by Republicans for a generation and white conservative Democrats a century before that. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

RICHMOND, Va. – A judge heard arguments Tuesday but did not immediately rule on whether to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's plans to remove an enormous statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee along Richmond's famed Monument Avenue.

An injunction currently prevents Northam's administration from moving forward with plans to take down the bronze equestrian statue of Lee. The monument was erected in 1890 at a time when the Civil War and Reconstruction were over and Jim Crow racial segregation laws were on the rise.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking to have the injunction lifted and lawsuit tossed.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant said he would rule "within a week" after hearing from Herring's office and an attorney for the plaintiffs, a group of property owners in the statue's vicinity.

If Marchant declines to toss the lawsuit, a trial is expected in October, according to Herring's office.

Northam announced plans to remove the statue in early June citing the pain felt across the country about the death of George Floyd, who died under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer as he struggled to breathe. But his plans have been tied up in court since then.

Now cloaked in graffiti, the Lee statue and other nearby monuments have become a rallying point during ongoing social justice protests and occasional clashes with police.

Floyd's death sparked a renewed wave of Confederate monument removals across the U.S., just like a violent 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville before it and a mass shooting at a historic African American church in South Carolina before that.

Critics of the statues say they distastefully glorify people who fought to preserve slavery in the South. Others say their removal amounts to erasing history.

Four other prominent statues of Confederate leaders have been taken down from city property along the avenue this summer.