Virginians waiting for the state-owned Robert E. Lee monument to come down will have to wait a while longer.
Thursday morning, a Richmond judge extended an injunction barring the state from removing the statue. According to reporters in the room, Judge Bradley Cavedo said the statue is "the property of the people."
The suit is based on a deed from 1890 that gifts the statue, pedestal and land to the state. The plaintiff in the case claims to be a descendent of two of those donors. He argues that state officials are obligated by the language of the deed to protect the statue.
In the courtroom Thursday, Judge Cavedo dismissed the plaintiff's standing but granted him three weeks to refile an amended complaint. The next hearing in the case is now expected to be scheduled for sometime in late July. In the meantime, the judge indefinitely extended his initial injunction.
Speaking after the hearing, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says he's confident the state will ultimately prevail.
"My focus is on making sure that this symbol of Virginia's racist past does not continue to be allowed to represent us as a commonwealth," said Herring.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans to remove the 12-ton monument earlier this month, responding to nationwide furor over racial injustice and police brutality. In recent weeks demonstrators in Richmond have pulled down three, much smaller, Confederate monuments.
The imposing Robert E. Lee statue was erected in 1890, at a time when black Virginians were being violently and systematically shut out of the voting booth. It stands on Monument Avenue, alongside several other large Confederate monuments. City leaders are in support of removing all of the monuments, as is the local neighborhood association.
In a statement, the Monument Avenue Preservation Society writes "for too long, we have overlooked the inherent racism of these monuments, and for too long we have allowed the grandeur of the architecture to blind us to the insult of glorifying men for their roles in fighting to perpetuate the inhumanity of slavery."