Lawsuit aims to restore Richmond’s Confederate statues ‘to their previous condition’

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Two Monument Avenue residents filed a lawsuit in Richmond Circuit Court on Friday, seeking to prevent the city from removing any additional Confederate statues and to have the monuments that were already hauled away to be restored “to their previous condition.”

The plaintiffs named in the suit, Evan Morgan and Helen Marie Taylor, claim that Mayor Levar Stoney lacked the authority to order the removal of the monuments.

The mayor cited an emergency ordinance that was adopted by the Richmond City Council in response to the coronavirus pandemic and public safety concerns when he bypassed a 60-day removal process established by the state to have the first monument removed on July 1, the first day local governments had the authority to remove Confederate monuments. The lawsuit alleges that Stoney’s rationale on the ordinance was “arbitrary and unjustified.”

RELATED: Three more statues taken down before judge blocked further removal

“Removing monuments has no rational relationship to the purpose of Resolution No. 2020-R025, which was a measure designed to protect public health from the effects of a virus,” the complaint states. “Mayor Stoney’s reliance on the emergency ordinance to justify his removal of the
monuments at issue was arbitrary and unjustified.”

Richmond Circuit Judge Bradley Cavedo handed down a 60-day injunction the day before the lawsuit was filed. The injunction was granted a day after the city’s commonwealth’s attorney, Colette McEachin, said she asked for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s opinion on whether the mayor had the authority to expedite the process.

RELATED: Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says 11 total monuments will be removed

The lawsuit also names the entire Richmond City Council as defendants, saying that the members could not permit the mayor to order the monuments to be taken down until officially voting on the matter and complying with requirements under the City Charter.

“Despite the illegality of Mayor Stoney’s orders to remove the monuments at issue and the advice provided to City Council by the City Attorney that removing the monuments at issue was a violation of the laws of the Commonwealth, the City Charter and ordinances adopted by City Council, members of City Council acquiesced in Mayor Stoney’s decision to proceed with the removals in violation of their collective and individual responsibilities,” the lawsuit claims.

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