Officials: Robert E. Lee monument toppled in Roanoke

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) β€” A monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that was set to be removed from a Virginia city’s downtown was toppled late Wednesday, officials said.

A police officer driving near Roanoke City Hall just before midnight noticed the monument lying on its side and broken into two pieces, the city said in a statement Thursday.

Police said it appeared the marker was intentionally damaged. Authorities did not announce any suspects or arrests.

The City Council this month voted in favor of a resolution that would have removed the 60-year-old monument from its location at Lee Plaza, a park across the street from City Hall named for the Virginia-born general, news outlets reported. State lawmakers passed a bill this spring allowing local governments to decide the fate of such monuments.

But the process to remove the monument from public land would have taken at least two months, The Roanoke Times said. Under the new law, the council needed to give a month’s notice of a public hearing on the removal, which was set for Aug. 17.

Despite the toppling, Mayor Sherman Lea said the city still planned to hold the meeting and would “proceed based upon the outcome of the public hearing.”

β€œIt is an unfortunate incident, but this will not deter us from going through the legal process to remove the monument,” Lea said in the statement.

Crews in Roanoke hauled away parts of the stone obelisk early Thursday, leaving just its base with an orange traffic cone on top, news outlets reported. City Manager Bob Cowell said the damaged monument was placed in storage for the time being.

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