Story at a glance

  • Crews hoisted a controversial statue of Robert E. Lee off its stone base Saturday morning before crowds of cheering residents and visitors in designated public viewing areas.
  • The statue of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson came down soon afterward.
  • The Confederate monuments became a flash point for the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in 2017.

The city of Charlottesville, Va., took down statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson over the weekend, removing the monuments at the center of  the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally that left one woman dead. 

Crews hoisted the statue of Lee off its stone base Saturday morning before crowds of cheering residents and visitors in designated public viewing areas. The statue of Jackson came down soon afterward. 

“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 (D) said in remarks prior to the removal. 

The statues will be held in storage until the city council makes a decision as to what to do with them. 

The push to take down the statues that have stood in the city since the early 1920s kicked off in 2016 when a local high school student began circulating a petition calling for their removal. The city council voted to take the statues down the next year, but the move was delayed for several years by a legal challenge that was eventually rejected by the Supreme Court of Virginia


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The effort prompted pushback from white nationalists who held a protest in the city in August of 2017 that sparked clashes between counter protesters and resulted in the death of a 32-year-old woman. 

Heather Heyer was killed when a man deliberately drove into a crowd of pedestrians. Several others were injured in the attack by 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr., a documented white supremacist who had driven from Ohio to attend the rally. Fields was convicted of a hate crime and fist-degree murder, among other charges, in 2017.

A statue depicting Native American Sacagawea and explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were also removed Saturday. The bronze statue has been criticized by some for its portrayal of Sacagawea in a crouching position behind the standing white men. 


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Published on Jul 12, 2021