A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on Monday to prevent the removal of a Confederate soldier monument from the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.
Workers began removing the memorial on Monday before U.S. District Judge Rossie Alston Jr. issued his order, stating that the plaintiff’s lawyer told the court that the endeavor might disturb gravesites.
Defend Arlington, an organization linked with Save Southern Heritage Florida, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria, Va. on Sunday. Alston has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.
The removal, which was supposed to be finished by the end of the week, is in response to legislation passed by Congress and comes amid recent moves to remove symbols honoring slaveholders and Confederate officials.
Congress passed legislation in 2021 mandating the Department of Defense to investigate the removal of “names, symbols, displays, monuments, or paraphernalia” commemorating the Confederacy.
The Confederate Memorial in Arlington provides a “mythologized vision of the Confederacy, including highly sanitized depictions of slavery,” according to a report published by a commission formed in reaction to the law.
According to the report, an inscription promotes the “Lost Cause” concept, “which romanticized the pre-Civil War South and denied the horrors of slavery.”
The sculptor Moses Ezekiel designed the monument, which was erected in 1914 with congressional sanction across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
According to Leslie Rowland, a historian at the University of Maryland, finances for the memorial were donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which functioned primarily to “vindicate Confederate soldiers and other members of the Confederate generation.” They accomplished this by “putting forward a sanitized, romanticized version of the pre-Civil War South,” according to Rowland.
According to Arlington National Cemetery, bronze components of the memorial will be removed, but the granite base will remain in place “to avoid disturbing surrounding graves.” According to a press statement released prior to the court’s order, the removal was supposed to be completed by December 22.
The decision to demolish the monument has been met with opposition from several Republican officials, including more than 40 members of Congress who have urged for the removal to be halted. According to the Washington Post, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has requested that the statue be shown in the Virginia Military Institute’s Civil War museum.