The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled on Thursday that the state can remove a massive statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has stood on Monument Avenue in the state capital for more than a century.

The ruling came after residents filed two lawsuits to prevent the removal of the 21-foot (6-meter) bronze equestrian sculpture, which depicts Lee in military garb atop a 40-foot (12-meter) pedestal.

Virginia Governor Northam announced his decision to remove it in June 2020, ten days after George Floyd’s death. After Floyd’s death, the nationally recognized statue became the focal point of a protest movement in Virginia, and its base is now covered with graffiti.

Separate lawsuits were filed by a group of residents who own property near the statue and a descendant of signatories to a 1890 deed that transferred the statue, pedestal and land they sit on to the state.

The plaintiffs’ arguments were rejected by the Supreme Court in two separate opinions.

The Lee statue was the first of five Confederate monuments to be erected on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, at a time when the Civil War and Reconstruction were long over.

When the statue arrived from France, where it was created, thousands of Virginians used wagons to help pull it in pieces for more than a mile to the place where it now stands. Residents celebrated the statue of the Civil War hero and native Virginian.

The city of Richmond, which was the capital of the Confederacy for most of the Civil War, has removed more than a dozen other pieces of Confederate statuary on city land since Floyd’s death, which prompted the removal of Confederate monuments in cities across the country.

Robert E. Lee statue removed in Charlottesville

A statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee has been taken down in Charlottesville, Virginia, on July 10.

Shortly after the removal of the Lee statue, a statue of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was also removed from its base in another city park.

Statues honouring leaders of the pro-slavery Confederate side in the American Civil War have become a focus of protests against “racism” in recent years.

Last year, Virginia Republican leaders have issued statements expressing their opposition to Governor Ralph Northam’s order to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Monument Avenue in Richmond.

Senate Republican leaders say Governor Northam is wrong to have the statue removed.

In a joint statement, members of the GOP said:

“The Governor’s decision to remove the Lee statue from Monument Avenue is not in the best interests of Virginia. Attempts to eradicate instead of contextualizing history invariably fail. And because of this Governor’s personal history, the motivations of this decision will always be suspect. Like Senator Chase’s idiotic, inappropriate and inflammatory response, his decision is more likely to further divide, not unite, Virginians.” “We remain committed to a Virginia that offers opportunity for all, one where racism and bigotry are not tolerated. We stand ready to work on behalf of all Virginians in achieving that ideal.”