Charlottesville to remove Confederate statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson
A Confederate monument that helped spark a violent rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., Killing one, is expected to fall on Saturday.
The city of Charlottesville said in a press release that the bronze statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and that of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson will be removed and stored until city council decides where to move them.
The city said it has contacted museums, historical societies, government and military battlefields to inquire about their interest in acquiring the statues and has so far received ten responses – six out of state and four in the state.
City officials planned to put up fences and notices identifying no-parking zones around Market Street Park and Court Square Park, and the public will be able to see the removals of designated areas in the parks on Saturday, according to the press release. Several streets will be closed, the city said.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for over four years – 100 years, really – and it will be good to see these monuments of racism fall,” said Kristin Szakos, former Charlottesville City Council member and community activist. “Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done to bring about true racial equity, but this is an important step.”
City council members voted to remove Lee’s statue in 2017. Several organizations sued the city to prevent the removal, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city.
In August 2017, white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizers gathered for a “Unite the Right” to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove Lee’s statue. That afternoon, a self-identified white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring 19 others.
In 2019, he was sentenced to life in prison over 419 years.
Despite the legal battle that lasted for years, Charlottesville pushed for the removal of the statues. Last April, the Virginia Supreme Court issued a final ruling in favor of the city, which on Wednesday voted to allocate funds for the move.
Take ‘Em Down Cville, a coalition of racial justice activists, applauded the decision in a statement Friday.
“This is an important step in Charlottesville’s ongoing and difficult work to demolish the remaining structures of institutional racism that plague the systems and practices of our community,” the coalition said. “Today, we recommit ourselves to creating a community that renounces this cause, rejects white supremacy and values the lives of black people.”
The news comes after protesters toppled statues of colonizers and slave owners across the United States last year Over 90 Confederate monuments have been removed or moved from public spaces in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, and there are about 700 left, according to data from the Southern Poverty Law Center released earlier this year.
The statues of Christopher Columbus have also come under scrutiny. Columbus made four expeditions to the Caribbean and South America over two decades, enslavement and decimation of local populations and open the floodgates of European colonization. Officials – and, in some cases, the demonstrators – have shot down several statues of Christopher Columbus in recent months.
In their place, many towns and villages have erected new monuments.
Last month New York and Newark, New Jersey erected statues of Floyd. Chicago unveiled a monument to journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells. And in San Francisco, an artist unveiled a new public artwork on the former site of a statue of Francis Scott Key, the slave owner known for writing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Confederate monuments in Charlottesville are expected to be removed on Saturday