RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The process for removal of the pedestal that formerly housed a monumental statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee began this morning.

Photo: Delaney Hall/WRIC

In a press release, Governor Ralph Northam said the final stages of the removal – which began earlier this year with the dismemberment and removal of Lee and his horse – will be complete by Dec. 31.

Richmonder Randy Blythe, the lead singer of Richmond-based heavy metal band Lamb of God, was capturing photos of the pedestal Sunday.

“This is a historic moment in time,” he told 8News. “It was listed as one of the most important pieces of protest art in the last century.”

Blythe mentioned the historical fact that Lee himself was against Confederate monuments being built.

“He said he thought it better not to keep open the sores of war,” Blythe said, quoting Lee.

After the pedestal is removed, Northam said the land – which is also known as Marcus David Peters Circle – would be returned to the City of Richmond. The statue of Lee was the last of the confederate monuments on Monument Avenue to be removed because the statue was in the care of the Commonwealth, while the others were on city property.

“This land is in the middle of Richmond, and Richmonders will determine the future of this space,” said Governor Northam. “The Commonwealth will remove the pedestal and we anticipate a safe removal and a successful conclusion to this project.”

In a statement, the city said the land would be accepted and that its future use “will be determined through a thoughtful and community-rooted planning process” that will be inline with the Richmond 300 development plan.

Blythe said he hopes the area will continue to be a community gathering place.

“Black taxpayers have had to pay for the upkeep of a monument dedicated to someone who fought for slavery,” he said.

The statue and circle became a focal point in the protests that rocked Richmond and the country in the Summer of 2020, with the pedestal itself serving as a canvas for graffiti artists and a rallying point for protesters.

The circle was also the site of an unprovoked tear gas attack by Richmond Police that took place before a declared curfew, which Mayor Levar Stoney and chief of Police Gerald Smith later apologized for.

The area was eventually fenced off by the state, which cited safety concerns as they began a long legal fight to remove the statue.

The state’s press release also noted that if the elusive time capsule said to be buried under the statue is found, it will be removed for preservation by crews.