An equestrian statue of a Confederate army general was removed Saturday from its stone pedestal in Charlottesville, Virginia. The statue was a symbol of white supremacists and helped inspire a violent white supremacist rally in 2017, in which one woman was killed.
Nearly four years ago, the far-right march erupted into violence. Heather Heyer, a peaceful activist who opposed the nationalists, died in the melee. The event sparked a national controversy over racism, particularly after then-President Donald Trump insisted that both sides are to blame.
Busts and statues commemorating Confederate generals and officers, as well as the Confederate army flag, are seen by some as a symbol of pride or identity, or a historical heritage or military emblem that only symbolizes the heritage of the southern states, but others see them as a symbol of racism, white supremacy, bigotry and slavery.
Work to remove the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee began early Saturday. Crews were set to remove a second Confederate Army monument – that of Gen. Thomas Stonewall Jackson – later.
Dozens of spectators surrounded the park and cheered as the statue was removed from the pedestal. There was a visible police presence, with streets blocked to vehicular traffic by fences and heavy trucks.
Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker gave a speech in front of reporters and observers as the crane approached the monument.
Taking down this statue is one more small step toward the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America deal with the sin of being willing to destroy black people for economic gain, Walker said.
Plans to remove the statues were stymied for years because of a cumbersome legal battle and the passage of a rule protecting war memorials.
The statues will be moved to a safe location, but their pedestals will remain in place. The city council will have to decide what to do with the statues. Under local law, the municipality had to offer them to anyone interested, during a period that ended Thursday. It received 10 responses.
A coalition of activists praised the city for removing the statues after the bidding period ended. â€œAs long as such statues remain in our public spaces, they send the message that our community tolerates white supremacy and the Lost Cause for which these generals fought, said the activist coalition, called Take ™Em Down Cville.