Statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee shot down in Charlottesville
A Confederate monument that helped spark a violent rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia was hoisted from its stone pedestal on Saturday morning. The removal of the statue from the statue of General Robert E. Lee follows years of discord, community angst and legal wrangling.
A removal campaign erupted in 2016. The monument then became a rallying cry for white supremacists and other racist groups, culminating in 2017 with the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in which a peaceful counter-protesterwas killed.
The teams also removed a statue of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
Dozens of spectators lined up on the blocks surrounding the park, and cheers rose as the statue of Lee lifted off the pedestal. There was a visible police presence, with streets blocked off to traffic by fences and heavy trucks.
Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker delivered a speech to reporters and observers as the crane approached the monument on Saturday.
“Tearing down this statue is one small step towards the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia and America fight the sin of wanting to destroy black people for economic gain,” Walker said.
The city announced on Friday its intention to remove the statues.
Only the statues, and not their stone plinths, were removed. They will be kept in a safe place until the city council makes a final decision on what to do with them.
Under state law, the city was required to solicit interested parties to take the statues during an offering period that ended Thursday. He received 10 responses to his request.
A coalition of activists praised the city for moving quickly to remove the statues after the offer period ended. As long as the statues “remain standing in our downtown public spaces, they indicate that our community has tolerated white supremacy and the lost cause these generals fought for,” said the coalition called Take ‘Em Down Cville.
Don Gathers, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Charlottesville, described a feeling of relief, according to the CBS Charlottesville affiliate.
“More than anything else, it’s a sense of relief that we’ve finally come to this point in time, to this point in history,” he said. “For our great community of Charlottesville as well as for our country.”
The latest Lee monument-focused removal campaign began in 2016, thanks in part to a petition started by black high school student Zyahna Bryant. A lawsuit was quickly filed, putting plans for the city on hold, and white supremacists took to the issue.
“This is a crucial first step in the right direction in telling a more accurate and historically complete story of this place and the people who call it home. The work didn’t start here and it doesn’t start here. ‘won’t stop here,’ said Bryant, now a student at the University of Virginia, said in a statement.