For a Black Man Hired to Undo a Confederate Legacy, It Has Not 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 Richmond’s 2020 mayoral election, said only that the removal work “should have cost much less than it did.”

With the first removal planned for July 1, 2020, security loomed as an unresolved concern. The city attorney believed the mayor did not actually have the authority to expedite the removal of the monuments under emergency protocols and the Richmond Police Department opted not to participate, fearing that it could be cited for acting illegally.

Turning to the sheriff’s department for help was another option. But the city sheriff, Antionette V. Irving, was unsure whether it was wise to get involved, Mr. Henry and city 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’s Baptist Church, in hopes the pastor might give the sheriff a nudge.

Sheriff Irving agreed on the afternoon of the first removal to deploy deputies to help protect Mr. Henry and his team as they began to dismantle a monument to the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. Since 1919, it had stood along Monument Avenue, a thoroughfare studded with homages to leaders of the Confederacy.

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

But once all of the preparations were in place, the scene played out “like a movie,” Mr. Henry said. In a pouring rain, as a church bell — nearly melted down into Confederate weaponry during the Civil War — rang in the background, a crane sent the Jackson statue airborne. Hundreds of people erupted into cheers — and tears.

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