Katharine DeRosa, News Editor
The Virginia Department of General Services erected a fence around Marcus-David Peters Circle on Monday in preparation for the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.
The department stated the fencing is not intended to be permanent.
“As we await the resolution of legal challenges that have delayed the statue’s removal, DGS wants to be prepared to act quickly upon a final determination,” said Dena Potter, the department’s communications director, in an email.
The area was reclaimed this summer by protesters and became a space for demonstrations, charity and community activities such as basketball and art.
Potter said she doesn’t know when the public will be allowed back into the circle, and she has no time frame for when the statue will come down.
The Lee Monument is one of the last remaining Confederate monuments in Richmond. The City of Richmond removed many nearby historic Monument Avenue statues, including those honoring J.E.B. Staurt and Thomas John “Stonewall” Jackson. Protesters toppled the Jefferson Davis Monument, as well as statues on VCU’s campus that honored Williams Carter Wickham and the Richmond Howitzers.
“I think it’s been really powerful to see our community reclaim that space and have it be somewhere where people feel like their voices can be heard,” said projectionist Alex Criqui.
The Lee statue’s base is lined with memorials to Black people who were killed by police officers, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and VCU alumnus Marcus-David Peters. These memorials will remain in place until the statue is removed, according to the Department of General Services.
“If we are able to remove the monument before a decision is made as to the disposition of the memorials, DGS would store those until such time a decision is made as to what happens to them,” Potter said.
Alex Criqui, who has spent the last several months projecting images and messages onto the base of the Lee statue, said he wants the space to remain community oriented.
“I think it’s been really powerful to see our community reclaim that space and have it be somewhere where people feel like their voices can be heard,” Criqui said.
Criqui said he understands the “strategic necessity” to put up the fence with no prior warning, but thinks decisions regarding the circle need to be community based.
Northam announced on Dec. 11 that $11 million would be invested in the improvement of Monument Avenue. The funding will allow the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to reimagine the area.
“At a time when this Commonwealth and country are grappling with how to present a more complete and honest picture of our complex history, we must work to enhance public spaces that have long been neglected and shine light on previously untold stories,” Northam said in a release.
Criqui said working with the VFMA could be effective, but he wants to see citizens who helped transform Marcus-David Peters Circle play a part in the development of Monument Avenue.
“We can create a version of our city that isn’t steeped in white supremacy,” Criqui said. “I think it’s very positive if it’s done right.”