City officials and residents react to toppled Robert E. Lee Memorial in downtown Roanoke

Local News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — After the Robert E. Lee monument was found toppled on the ground just before midnight on Wednesday, city officials still aim to follow through with their plans to legally remove the statue.

After a preliminary investigation, it appears that the structure was knocked over intentionally. The monument was removed by city workers just before 9:00 a.m. on Thursday. It is being stored at a location that officials are not releasing.

Roanoke City leaders say this is not the way the memorial was meant to be removed, with City Manager, Bob Cowell, stating that, “It is unfortunate that this has occurred in the light of the Council having initiated the process provided in State Code to facilitate the lawful removal and relocation of the monument.”

Mayor Sherman Lea gained the power to start the statue removal process on July 1. Roanoke City Council adopted a resolution on July 6 to begin the process of removing the monument. This resolution was advertised to the public on July 13 and July 17. The public hearing concerning the removal of the structure is scheduled for Aug. 17 at 7 p.m.

“We had several steps that we had to take, to notify the public, and give the opportunity to come in and talk with us,” Lea explained. “That’s where we’re asking all of the citizens that are either for it or against it or have some other thoughts, to come talk to us at our hearing.”

The City of Roanoke released the following statement on Thursday, July 23 regarding the incident:

Lea says the monument could be fully removed as early as September.

“It’s my job as mayor to make sure that we do it the right way, listen, inform, discuss, and vote,” Lea stated.

There are differing opinions surrounding the statue’s removal and even a lawsuit against Lea and City of Roanoke Council Members. Liniel Godfrey Gregory, Jr., who is petitioning against the removal of the monument, will be representing himself in court. The hearing will be held in Circuit Court on Aug. 13 at 10 a.m. Gregory has also filed a petition in Richmond.

Passersby also voiced their opinions regarding the monument’s abrupt removal. Roanoke resident, Cary Leeth, says he expected the memorial to be removed but not in this fashion.

“It should have been taken down, properly though,” Leeth said. “What’s the hurry? I mean, that’s just vandalism! And they should be prosecuted.”

Others say that if statues that represent all races were constructed, those would help bring unity.

“Start putting up some Black monuments along with White monuments, and we’ll go a long way to start coming together,” said Roanoke resident, Sherry, who is a descendant of a Confederate Soldier.

Some in Roanoke have seen the Lee Memorial from start to finish. Resident Bobby Lackey has lived in Roanoke since 1946. In his time, he has seen the city grow and evolve, including the day the Lee Memorial was erected in 1960 by local Daughters of the Confederacy chapters.

“I was about 14-years-old,” Lackey recalls, “and if I remember correctly, there were a few young men dressed in Confederate uniforms and some other dignitaries when they dedicated that.”

Lackey says he is surprised the monument has stayed up this long.

“When Charlottesville happened, I thought about that, and I wondered if it was still here. I walked down, and sure enough, it was still there, but I didn’t know it was going to be toppled last night.”

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