The monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee across the street from Roanoke’s city hall was toppled Wednesday night.
City crews removed two chunks of the now-broken stone shaft from the ground at the west end of Lee Plaza, which is also named for the Virginia-born Confederate general. People trickled through the slender park Thursday to look at where the monument once stood, some taking pictures of themselves with the base.
A Roanoke police officer was driving through the area just before midnight Wednesday and noticed the monument down on its side, according to city officials.
Police said it appears the shaft was intentionally knocked down. No one has been arrested.
Roanoke City Council had been in the early stages of having the 60-year-old marker removed. The council voted for a resolution earlier this month to have it removed, an authority recently granted to local governments by a change in state law.
“It is an unfortunate incident, but this will not deter us from going through the legal process to remove the monument,” Mayor Sherman Lea said in a statement. “We have a public hearing scheduled for the second council meeting in August to allow citizens to give their input on this matter, and we will proceed based upon the outcome of the public hearing.”
The process to remove the monument from public land would have taken at least two months. According to the new law, the council must give 30 days’ notice of a public hearing, which is scheduled for Aug. 17.
“It is unfortunate that this has occurred in light of the council having initiated the process provided in state code to facilitate the lawful removal and relocation of the monument,” City Manager Bob Cowell said in a statement. “I am certain the council will proceed with the process and render a final decision on the fate of the monument.”
Cowell said the damaged monument has been moved into storage until “further action is warranted based upon the council decision.”
Unlike other Confederate monuments across Virginia and the South, the modest one in downtown Roanoke had attracted little attention. It has stood there since October 1960, when it was dedicated by a Roanoke chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy as the centennial of the Civil War.
People protesting racial injustices and police brutality in recent months haven’t directed their attention to the downtown monument.
However, it was spray-painted and chipped two years ago. Authorities never announced if anyone was charged in the vandalism.