Tell Governor Northam to Move the Lee Statue from Richmond


The Virginia Department of General Services is considering making regulations permanent that were enacted on an "emergency" basis in 2017 regarding how the state will permit protests and demonstrations at the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond.

Portions of these regulations are unconstitutional, in that they are not neutral to the content of speech being exercised, allow previous, recurring events to be "grandfathered" without a permit, and are required for as few as 10 people, among other issues.

The answer to the problem of how to balance public safety and the right to free expression at this public forum is not to enact burdensome, illegal regulations. No regulations will be needed at all if Gov. Ralph Northam uses his executive authority to remove the statue from Monument Avenue.

The governor has the ability under state law to declare the monument — a towering Jim Crow-era symbol of racism and oppression — to be surplus property and dispose of it how he sees fit. One option would be to donate it to the Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, the site of Lee’s surrender, where it could be viewed in its proper context by those who want to see it.

Message Recipients:
Gov. Ralph Northam

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You and others in state and local government have a difficult job in attempting to balance protection of public safety and the constitutional right to free expression. The ACLU of Virginia has submitted an extensive set of comments about the proposed regulations which, if adopted, would assist the Department of General Services and law enforcement in this regard.

However, there is one action that you could take right away that would eliminate the need for these regulations in the first place. The Robert E. Lee Monument is accurately described in language prefacing the proposed regulations as “a state-property island in an area otherwise regulated by the City of Richmond.” So, the problem of how to balance safety and free speech isn’t caused by the monument being surrounded by property the state doesn’t control, that there is continuous vehicular traffic around it, or that large crowds there are difficult to monitor for potential threats. It is simply that the monument exists where it does.

I agree with the ACLU of Virginia that as you attempt to find significant ways to demonstrate your commitment to racial equity, you should immediately use your executive powers to remove this towering racist symbol from Richmond’s Monument Avenue and donate it to a more appropriate location where it could be viewed in proper historical context by those who want to see it.


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