For a black man hired to undo a Confederate legacy, it hasn’t been easy

Mr Henry called the investigation ‘ridiculous’ and added: ‘There was nothing nefarious going on’. Asked to comment on the dispute, Ms Gray, who lost to Mr Stoney in the 2020 Richmond mayoral election, said only that the removal works ‘should have cost a lot less than they did fact”.

With the first withdrawal scheduled for July 1, 2020, security was an unresolved concern. The city attorney felt the mayor had no real authority to expedite the removal of monuments under emergency protocols and the Richmond Police Department chose not to participate, fearing being cited for having acted illegally.

Turning to the sheriff’s department for help was another option. But the town’s sheriff, Antionette V. Irving, was unsure if it was wise to get involved, Mr. Henry and town officials recalled. Mr. Henry and Sheriff Irving attended the same church. So at one point Mr. Henry took a selfie with the sheriff and sent it to their pastor, Dr. Lance Watson of Saint Paul Baptist Church, in the hope that the pastor might give a shot. thumbs up to the sheriff.

Sheriff Irving said that, for public safety reasons, she agreed on the afternoon of the first withdrawal to deploy deputies as Mr. Henry and his team began dismantling a monument to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Since 1919, it has stood along Monument Avenue, a thoroughfare dotted with tributes to Confederate leaders.

As much as the city had sought haste, the removal of the statues is not at all the same as the demolition work. Even monuments now devalued as symbols are often dismantled with immense care. In the case of the Jackson statue, Team Henry was initially unable to locate the bolts they needed to cut to detach it from its pedestal.

But with all the preparations in place, the scene played out “like a movie”, Mr Henry said. In the pouring rain, as a church bell — almost melted into Confederate weaponry during the Civil War — rang in the background, a crane sent Jackson’s statue flying into the air. Hundreds of people burst into cheers – and tears.

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