The largest Confederate statue in the US was removed and the crowd cheered, ‘hey, hey, hey, goodbye’

Robert E. Lee statue being removed in Richmond, Va.
Crews prepare to remove one of the country’s largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, September 8, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. Getty Images
  • A 12-ton statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee came down on Wednesday.
  • The move comes more than a year after Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the statue’s removal.
  • The statue, the US’s largest honoring a Confederate figure, is being moved to a state facility.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The largest remaining Confederate statue in the US came down on Wednesday after towering over Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, for more than 130 years.

A crew is set to store the six-story, 12-ton statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in a state-owned facility until officials decide what to do with it.

A video NBC News posted on Twitter showed the statue being removed, which was met with cheers from the onlooking crowd. They sang “hey, hey, hey, goodbye,” as the statue was brought off its pedestal and to the ground.

Taking down Confederate monuments has become a major focus of anti-racism activists in the US in recent years. In 2020, more than 160 Confederate symbols were renamed or removed from public spaces, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Virginia’s largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will come down this week,” Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a commonwealth.”

Northam ordered the statue to be taken down in June 2020, after nationwide protests erupted after the white police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis.

The order faced legal challenges from a descendant of the family that gave the statue to Virginia, as well as from families that lived near the statue in Richmond. But last week the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled in Northam’s favor.

The statue has stood above Monument Avenue in Richmond since 1890. Five other Confederate statues previously stood there, but Lee’s is the last remaining, according to a press release from the commonwealth.

Virginia for now plans to leave the 40-foot (12.19m) granite pedestal holding the statue in place, with the city of Richmond and the Virginia Department of Fine Arts set to “reimagine Monument Avenue,” which is a tourism area in the city.

“Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy,” Mayor Levar Stoney said in a statement. “We are a diverse, open, and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect this reality.”