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Virginia closing grounds of R.E. Lee monument overnight

 Photo: WWBT
Photo: WWBT (WHSV)
Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 5:48 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — After weeks of protests centered around the Robert E. Lee monument in downtown Richmond, the state-owned property will be shut down to the public during overnight hours.

The Virginia Department of General Services announced on Monday evening that they will be closing the grounds around the Lee monument from sunset to sunrise, indefinitely into the future.

“While there have been many successful and peaceful events on the Lee Monument grounds since late May, concerns are mounting for the safety of those in attendance of the events and for those living and working within the immediate area, especially at night. The substantial increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic in and around the monument and intermittent blockages to vehicular traffic within the intersection pose serious safety risks. In addition, such legal violations as vandalism, trespassing on nearby private properties, littering, public urination and excessive noise have steadily been on the rise,” the department said in a statement.

Officials said as a result of increased public safety risks and numerous legal violations, law enforcement will be enforcing state laws, city ordinances and the regulations for use of the Lee Monument property.

“These steps are necessary to provide a safe and secure area for individuals who want to express their First Amendment rights peacefully, as well as general visitors to the site, City of Richmond residents and property owners,” a release said.

The move comes just a day after Richmond police declared a protest surrounding the J.E.B. Stuart statue an unlawful assembly when protesters started tying ropes to try to pull it down.

Officials said officers will stress education and encourage voluntary compliance with regulations prior to any enforcement actions.

When the grounds reopen during the daylight hours, visitors are advised to follow these regulations:

· Vehicles are prohibited

· No climbing on the statue or its steps

· Maximum occupancy is 500

· No additional banners, flags, posters or other objects shall be placed on or affixed to the statue

· Unlawful activity is prohibited

· Events expected to draw 10 or more people require a permit

The overnight closures begin on Monday, June 22.

A copy of the Regulations can be found here.

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