Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville removed
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was hoisted away from its place of prominence in Charlottesville on Saturday and carted off to storage.
Work to remove the Lee statue began early Saturday morning, The Associated Press reports. Crews later removed a statue of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
Scores of spectators lined the blocks surrounding the park where the Lee statue had stood since the 1920s, and a cheer went up as it was lifted off the pedestal. There was a visible police presence, with streets blocked off to vehicular traffic by fencing and heavy trucks.
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.
The removal of the statues 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 work also came nearly four years after violence erupted at the infamous “Unite the Right” rally, accoridng to AP. Heather Heyer, a peaceful counterprotester, died in the violence, which sparked a national debate over racial equity.
The work seemed to proceed smoothly and fairly easily as couples, families with small children, and activists looked on from surrounding blocks. The crowd intermittently chanted and cheered as the workers made progress. Music wafted down the street as a pair of musicians played hymns from a church near the Lee statue.
There were at least a handful of opponents of the removal, including a man who heckled the mayor after her speech, but no visible, organized protester presence.
Only the statues, not their stone pedestals, were removed Saturday. They will be 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 Thursday. It received 10 responses to its solicitation.
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.NBC2 (WBBH-TV)