Virginia Police Ban Use of Drones Around Robert E. Lee Statue Ahead of Removal

Drones will be banned around and over the Robert E. Lee statue during its removal this week in Richmond, Virginia's Capitol Police announced.

In a Tuesday tweet, officials said that drones will be banned from a 2-nautical-mile radius around the statue according to an order from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The ban took effect at one minute past midnight on Tuesday morning and is set to remain in place until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. Before the order, drones could be used around the statue but not over it.

The FAA said the ban has been issued for "special security reasons."

The Robert E. Lee monument will be removed on Wednesday, more than 130 years after it was erected in tribute to the leader of the Confederacy's forces. Following authorization from all three branches of the state government, including a unanimous decision last week by the Supreme Court of Virginia, the statue will be taken down as a symbol of racial injustice.

Plans to remove the statue had been stalled for more than a year by two lawsuits filed by residents opposed to the removal, but last week's court ruling affirmed the Commonwealth's authority to take it down.

Robert E. Lee Statue Removal Richmond Confederacy
Ahead of Wednesday's removal of the monument, drones have been banned from the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Many other Confederate symbols have been removed without public announcements beforehand. However, the office of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who first announced plans for the removal 10 days after George Floyd's death, will livestream the event on Facebook and Twitter.

"Virginia's largest monument to the Confederate insurrection will come down this week," Northam said in a Monday news release. "This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a commonwealth."

The statue is the only one of five Confederate statues along Monument Avenue to be owned by the Commonwealth and is the last to be removed.

Preparations for the removal will begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, when protective fencing will be installed along Monument Avenue and Allen Street. The fencing will remain until all items are removed from the site.

State officials said the statue will be placed in secure storage at a state-owned facility until a decision is made on its disposition.

The 40-foot granite pedestal will remain for the time being, and its final disposition will be determined later in a community-driven effort.

"Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy," Mayor Levar Stoney said on Monday. "We are a diverse, open and welcoming city, and our symbols need to reflect this reality."