Pedestal of Robert E. Lee statue in Virginia capital fully removed

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The pedestal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Va., was fully removed on Friday, putting an end to a divisive saga over a Confederate memorial that loomed over the city for 130 years.

By the end of the day on New Year's Eve, workers had hauled every piece of the once 40-foot tall pedestal away from Monument Avenue and leveled the ground. No part of the statue, first erected in 1890, remained standing by Saturday morning.

Mike Spence, the project construction supervisor overseeing 21 workers, told local news channel ABC 8 his crew spent 1,300 hours going up and down scaffolding to remove stones and haul them away.

"The hours are the blood, sweat and tears of this," Spence said, per the outlet.

Crew workers also helped find and remove two time capsules, one of which was described in a 19th-century newspaper article and contained historical artifacts including books, coins and ammunition, during the removal process. One of the capsules was found in the pedestal and the other was underneath it.

The statue is one of several memorializing former Confederate generals to have been removed in recent years amid a national reckoning over history and race.

A proposal to bring down a similar statue of Lee in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 prompted opponents of its removal to hold the deadly "Unite the Right" rally, at which white supremacists chanted, "You will not replace us," before clashing with counter-protesters.

After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, plans to remove the Richmond statue got underway before getting tied up in court. Virginia's Supreme Court ruled in September of 2021 that it could be removed, and the statue was taken off the pedestal a few days later.

The 21-foot statue of Lee is heading to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia in Richmond, NPR reported.

"Symbols matter, and for too long, Virginia's most prominent symbols celebrated our country's tragic division and the side that fought to keep alive the institution of slavery by any means possible," said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in a statement to NPR.

"Now it will be up to our thoughtful museums, informed by the people of Virginia, to determine the future of these artifacts," Northam continued.