Robert E Lee statue removed from US capitol

Virginia governor Ralph Northam has announced that a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee was removed from the US Capitol overnight.

The statue was removed overnight on Sunday from the US Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection, which can hold up to two statues from each state at a time.

The monument to the Confederate general, which stood in the collection for 111 years, will be replaced by a statue of civil rights icon Barbara Johns, after the state commission decided on it last week, according to The Hill.

“We should all be proud of this important step forward for our Commonwealth and our country,” Mr Northam  said on Monday.

“The Confederacy is a symbol of Virginia’s racist and divisive history, and it is past time we tell our story with images of perseverance, diversity, and inclusion.

“I look forward to seeing a trailblazing young woman of colour represent Virginia in the US Capitol, where visitors will learn about Barbara Johns’ contributions to America and be empowered to create positive change in their communities just like she did,” the governor added.

A representative from the governor’s office attended the removal of the statue, alongside Virginia senator Tim Kaine and representative Jennifer Wexton.

The statue of Johns will join Virginia’s monument to former President George Washington, which has stood in the collection since 1909.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement on Monday, calling the removal of the statue “welcome news.”

“The Congress will continue our work to rid the Capitol of homages to hate, as we fight to end the scourge of racism in our country,” Ms Pelosi said.

“There is no room for celebrating the bigotry of the Confederacy in the Capitol or any other place of honour in our country,” she added.

The state commission, led by state senator Louise Lucas, voted unanimously to remove the statue from the Capitol earlier in the year.

On Monday, Ms Lucas said released a statement, saying: “Confederate images do not represent who we are in Virginia, that’s why we voted unanimously to remove this statue.”

Ms Lucas added: “I am thrilled that this day has finally arrived, and I thank Governor Northam and the commission for their transformative work.”

Discussions about the place of monuments to members of the Confederacy were reignited this year, after racial justice protests took place in every state in the US, following the death of unarmed Black man George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Monuments to Confederate leaders were taken down in states across the US during the summer, and the Marine Corps, who previously announced their intent to ban all images of the Confederate flag from their bases, officially ordered the removal of them.

At the time of the order, the Marine Corps released a statement, saying: “The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps.”

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