Breonna Taylor, projected

“A photograph of Breonna Taylor, projected onto the statue of Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va., July 2020.Credit…Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

A colossal 61-foot equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee has towered above Richmond, Va., since 1890. It was the first Confederate monument erected in the former capital of the Confederacy and, as of this summer, it is among the last two standing. Other memorials to those who defended slavery — including the Confederate president Jefferson Davis and general Williams Carter Wickham — came crashing down at the hands of protesters in June while Richmond’s mayor, Levar Marcus Stoney, invoked emergency powers to remove the rest on July 1. But the 12-ton effigy of Lee, by far the nation’s most physically imposing memorial to the commander and his cause, proved too large for demonstrators to topple and, given its location on state land, lay beyond Stoney’s jurisdiction. Over the past several months, activists have transformed the base of the sculpture instead, covering the marble and granite with the names of victims of police violence, protest chants, calls for compassion, revolutionary symbols and anti-police slogans in dozens of colors. New phrases continually appear, adding to the kaleidoscopic display of communal, collective action. “