US city removes statue of General Robert E Lee and is also taking down Confederate statue of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson nearly four years after violence erupted at infamous “unite the right” rally.
A Confederate monument that helped spark a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been removed.
Work to remove the statue of General Robert E Lee began early on Saturday morning. Crews were also expected to take down a second Confederate monument.
Spectators by the dozens lined the blocks surround the park, and a cheer went up as the statue lifted off the pedestal.
Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker gave a speech in front of reporters and observers as the crane neared the monument.
“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,” Walker said.
Removing war memorials
The removal of the statue follows years of contention, community anguish, and litigation.
A long, winding legal fight coupled with changes in a state law that protected war memorials had held up the removal for years.
Saturday’s removal of a statue of General Lee and another of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson will come nearly four years after violence erupted at the infamous “Unite the Right” rally.
Heather Heyer, a peaceful counter-protester, died in the violence, which sparked a national debate over racial equity, further inflamed by former president Donald Trump’s insistence that there was “blame on both sides.”
The city announced its plans to hoist away the statues on Friday.
Only the statues, not their stone pedestals, will be removed on Saturday.
They will be taken down and stored in a secure location until the City Council makes a final decision about what should be done with them.
Under state law, the city was required to solicit parties interested in taking the statues during an offer period that ended on Thursday. It received 10 responses to its solicitation.
‘No platform for white supremacy’
A coalition of activists commended the city for moving quickly to take the statues down after the offer period ended.
As long as the statues “remain standing in our downtown public spaces, they signal that our community tolerated white supremacy and the Lost Cause these generals fought for,” the coalition called Take Em Down Cville said.
The most recent removal push focused on the Lee monument began in 2016, thanks in part to a petition started by a Black high school student, Zyahna Bryant.
A lawsuit was quickly filed, putting the city’s plans on hold, and white supremacists seized on the issue.
“This is well overdue,” said Bryant, who’s now a student at the University of Virginia. “No platform for white supremacy.”