The governor of the U.S. state of Virginia announced Thursday that a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that stands in the city of Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, will be removed.
Announcing the decision at a news conference in Richmond, Governor Ralph Northam said he was there to be honest about the past and talk about the future. He said the statue, which had been erected in 1890, "has been there for a long time. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now. So, we're taking it down."
Northam made the decision after days of angry protests in Richmond and across the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck while he pleaded for air.
Protesters had made the statue a focal point, calling for it and other Confederate statues to be taken down. The Confederacy fought the U.S. civil war largely to preserve slavery and subjugate African Americans as property.
The decision also came a day after Richmond's mayor, Levar Stoney, announced he would seek to remove the other four Confederate statues on Monument Avenue, a prestigious residential street and National Historic Landmark district.
Together, the decisions mark a striking departure from recent years when, even after a violent rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017 and other Confederate monuments started falling around the country, Virginia did not make the same changes.
Northam said the statue, property of the state of Virginia, will come down immediately and will be stored while a decision is made on what to do with it.