The southern US city of Charlottesville on Saturday took down two statues honoring Civil War generals for the pro-slavery Confederacy which had become the focus of protests, including a deadly 2017 rally of white supremacists.
The statues of generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are among hundreds of Confederate monuments in the United States now widely considered symbols of racism, even if their supporters argue they are a historical legacy.
Workers in the Virginia city used a crane to remove the statues — which depicted the men in uniform mounted on horses — as a crowd watched and cheered. No clashes were immediately reported.
“Taking down this statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America, grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain,” Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker, who is African American, told reporters before the monuments’ removal.
Tensions over the fate of the Lee statue led to violence in August 2017, when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of demonstrators in Charlottesville, killing a woman.
The protesters had gathered in opposition to white supremacists who staged a “Unite the Right” rally against plans to remove the statue of Lee.
Then-president Donald Trump came under fire when he said afterward that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the protests.
The Charlottesville violence gave new life to a campaign to remove Confederate symbols which first gained momentum following the June 2015 murders in South Carolina of nine black churchgoers by an avowed white supremacist.
The campaign picked up again following the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd, an African American man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
During the 1861-1865 Civil War, the Confederate South seceded from the United States and fought to maintain slavery, which the rest of the country had abolished.—AFP