Chris Boarts Larson Photo Column—Monument Ave., Richmond, VA, June 2020

A stupid, racist Confederate statue gets beautified | photo by Chris Boarts Larson

(click for full size)

Richmond, VA has long been a hotbed of strong feelings relating the monuments and statues that stand as reminders to its Confederate past. Year by year, the general population has become less tolerant of these memorials with more and more calls to remove them.

Following the death of George Floyd, the public outcry everywhere led to voices speaking out with days and nights of protest, rallies, and marches. Riots at the police station, fires in the streets, looting, burning, smashed windows, and graffiti. This revolution has been brewing. The frustration and anger built up after years of injustice was unleashed in an uproar. Several weeks on, people’s voices continue to be heard and their presence felt. Most of the rallies and marches and gatherings have become more peaceful while they continue to grow larger and spread farther with awe-inspiring crowds of diverse people coming together to speak out.

In Richmond, the focus has turned to the symbols of oppression, injustice, and a glorification of its racist past. Richmond’s many monuments to Confederate leaders have been at the forefront of anger and rebellion for years. The time is upon us and change is happening. The monuments and statues have been defaced, beheaded, painted and written on, and protested on and around.

The Robert E. Lee monument has become a central gathering point and has taken on a festive atmosphere. Day by day, the base of the Lee statue is layered with more words, slogans, and messages. It becomes ever more colorful. Graduating seniors are taking their photos on the statue with Black Lives Matter written behind them. Young ballerinas pose en pointe with their fist in the air. Nightly there are projections of George Floyd’s face, the words “Black Lives Matter” superimposed over the statue and its base.

There are memorials and flowers spread in memory of Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Marcus David Peters, and many other black men and women killed by police.

Virginia governor Ralph Northam has declared that the Lee monument will come down; that all the additional confederate statues will also be removed. But it’s not fast enough. The people have cried out and taken matters into their own hands. One by one, the statues have been toppling. General Wickham’s statue in Monroe Park was toppled. Christopher Columbus’s statue in Byrd Park was dragged down and thrown in the lake. Jefferson Davis’s statue was pulled down into the street. People have taken hacksaws to some of the horse’s legs. Lawsuits have been filed against the removal. There will be more protests and confrontations before this chapter is written.

Here in Richmond the messages “Black Lives Matter,” “End to Police Brutality,” “Justice for George Floyd,” and all of the other calls for justice and equality are also wrapped up in removing these monuments glorifying racism. It’s inevitable. These statues and monuments will come down and a new vision is in sight. It’s a powerful moment in our times. It’s an uprising, a rebellion, a revolution, a time for change, and right before our eyes every day there are iconic, powerful, and beautiful images writing a new history.

To see more of Chris’s photos from this series, hop on over to Razorcake’s Instagram.

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