Find McNamee / Getty Images
The city of Charlottesville, Va., Removed a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Saturday and toppled a symbol that was at the center of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally.
The statue – along with another of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, who was also due to be removed on Saturday – will remain on city property until the city council decides what to do with them. Ten groups have expressed interest in the statues, according to a statement from the city.
“Taking this statue down is a small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia and America fight sin by being willing to destroy black people for economic gain,” Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said as the crane approached the Lee monument. , the Associated Press reported.
Find McNamee / Getty Images
The removals were initiated by a 2016 petition started by a local high school student. The city council voted to take the statues down early next year, but that action was delayed by a legal challenge that was ultimately rejected by the Virginia Supreme Court in April.
The statues of Lee and Jackson – and threats to remove them – served as a rallying cry for the far right in the summer of 2017. Tension spilled into violence on August 12, 2017, the Unite the Right Rally, when the neo-Nazis collided. with counter-protesters. A woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when a man ran into a crowd of pedestrians. Dozens of others were injured in this attack and other violence.
Another, higher statue of Lee remains standing in Richmond, Virginia’s capital. Awaiting a final verdict in a separate legal challenge. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered that the state-owned statue be removed as soon as the matter is resolved. Four other Confederate statues lining the city’s iconic Monument Avenue were removed last summer amid racial protests.
Charlottesville statues of Lee and Jackson were erected in the early 1920s with grand ceremonies that included Confederate veterans’ associations, parades and balls. At an event during the 1921 unveiling of the Jackson statue, the children formed a living Confederate flag on the lawn of a school down the road from Vinegar Hill, a prominent black neighborhood. The Jackson statue was placed on land that had once been another affluent black neighborhood.
John C. Clark / AP
Their construction coincided with a push south to value the Confederacy and oppress black communities, according to Sterling Howell, program coordinator with the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.
“This was at the height of the Jim Crow separation, at the height of lynchings in American history,” he said. “There was a clear statement that they were not welcome.”