(AP) Work crews wielding a giant crane, harnesses and power tools wrested an imposing statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson from its concrete pedestal along Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue on Wednesday, just hours after the mayor ordered the removal of all Confederate statues from city land.
Mayor Levar Stoney’s decree came weeks after Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the most prominent and imposing statue along the avenue: that of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which sits on state land. The removal of the Lee statue has been stalled pending the resolution of several lawsuits.
Work crews spent several hours Wednesday carefully attaching a harness to the massive Jackson statue and detaching it from its base with power tools. A crowd of several hundred people who had gathered to watch cheered as a crane lifted the figure of the general atop his horse into the air and set it aside.
“This is long overdue,” said Brent Holmes, who is Black. “One down, many more to go.”
Flatbed trucks and other equipment were spotted Wednesday at several other monuments as well. The city has roughly a dozen Confederate statues on municipal land, including one of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. Mayor Stoney said it will take several days to remove them.
The mayor said he also is moving quickly because he is concerned that people could be hurt trying to take down the gigantic statues themselves. In Portsmouth last month, a man was seriously injured when protesters tried to pull down a Confederate statue.
“Failing to remove the statues now poses a severe, immediate and growing threat to public safety,” he said, noting that hundreds of demonstrators have held protests in the city for 33 consecutive days.
Stoney’s move came on the day a new state law took effect granting control of the monuments to the city. The law outlines a removal process that would take at least 60 days to unfold.
But during a City Council meeting Wednesday morning, the mayor balked as the council scheduled a special meeting for Thursday to formally vote on a resolution calling for the immediate removal of the statues.
“Today, I have the ability to do this through my emergency powers,” Stoney said. “I think we need to act today.”
Work crews arrived at the Jackson statue about an hour later.