70-year-old man who took down Robert E. Lee Monument in Roanoke speaks out

Published: Jul. 26, 2020 at 5:41 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A Roanoke man is speaking out after he says he knocked over a downtown Confederate monument. Thursday, the Star City woke up to ruins with pieces of the Robert E Lee monument scattered next to its pedestal. Now, 70-year-old William Foreman from Roanoke is facing charges in connection to this damage.

“I was touched by God to do something. I just had a vision, and it came to me,” Foreman said.

Foreman has lived in Roanoke his whole life. He said he didn’t want to see a day of unrest come to the city he loves.

“I wanted to prevent an incident that’s going to, I believe happen, I call it, the day of action, when they actually take it down or leave it up, and I believe that there’s going to be both sides there with big opinions and a lot of pressure,” Foreman said.

So July 21, he went down to the Robert E. Lee Monument on 3rd Street and Church to take matters into his own hands.

“With just a nylon rope and I was going to do it with a Highlander and the police came,” he said.

Roanoke City Police say they saw Foreman trying to take the statue down, so they asked him to leave the area. But he came back the next night, even more prepared.

“I went and got chains, and doubled the rope, and got a U-Haul trailer and went down that night and took it down,” Foreman said.

He says that’s when his guilt sank in. Once officers discovered the damaged memorial, they reached out to Foreman and obtained a warrant for his arrest. A few days later, Foreman came to the station and turned himself in.

“I just felt like it was eating at me whether I did something right or wrong ... Whether I should be the one to do it or not, but I felt strongly I was,” Foreman said.

Foreman says he's ready to face the consequences and, no matter what happens, he doesn't regret what he's done.

“It shouldn’t be representative of Lee Park. It shouldn’t be there in the first place,” he said.

The city mayor says he’s disappointed because they have plans in the works to legally remove the monument. The city will still hold a public hearing in August to hear input from the community.

Foreman is booked for a court hearing Monday.

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