Charlottesville Removes Robert E. Lee Statue at Center of White Nationalist Rally

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The statue was astatine the halfway of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally successful 2017. The metropolis removed it connected Saturday and volition besides instrumentality down a monument to Stonewall Jackson.

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from Market Street Park successful  Charlottesville, Va., connected  Saturday.
Credit...Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

Published July 9, 2021Updated July 10, 2021, 9:46 a.m. ET

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Four years aft a pistillate was killed and dozens were injured erstwhile achromatic nationalists protested the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee successful Charlottesville, Va., workers removed the statue connected Saturday and were preparing to instrumentality down a adjacent monument to Stonewall Jackson, different Confederate general.

The larger-than-life-sized statue was hoisted disconnected its granite basal soon aft 8 a.m. arsenic a assemblage of astir 200 looked on. As the flatbed motortruck carrying the bronze statue rumbled down East Jefferson Street, a toot of the truck’s horn prompted cheers and applause.

John Edwin Mason, a past prof astatine the University of Virginia, scurried astir the perimeter of the parkland to support a adjacent oculus connected the proceedings. “I’m truly blessed it’s a boring morning, and boring means that nary atrocious things happened,” helium said. “We were each tense that much atrocious things could happen. I deliberation the mundaneness of this is fine. The ordinariness of this juncture is fine.”

The determination by the metropolis connected Friday to yet instrumentality down the statue of Lee came much than 4 years aft the City Council initially enactment distant a program to region it from what was past known arsenic Lee Park, prompting scores of achromatic nationalists to descend connected Charlottesville successful August 2017 successful a “Unite the Right” rally to protestation the removal.

Counterprotesters confronted the rally, and a achromatic supremacist drove into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, sidesplitting a woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring dozens of others. The unit that day, arsenic good arsenic the unfastened racism and anti-Semitism displayed astatine the rally, intensified calls to region Confederate statues crossed the country.

“It feels good. It’s been a agelong clip coming,” said Zyahna Bryant, a University of Virginia pupil who was a ninth grader successful Charlottesville erstwhile she started a petition successful March 2016 calling connected the metropolis to region the statue of Lee and to rename Lee Park, which is present called Market Street Park.

The metropolis supported Ms. Bryant’s effort and voted to region the statue of Lee riding connected his horse, Traveller, which was erected successful 1924, arsenic good arsenic a adjacent statue of Jackson connected horseback, which was erected successful 1921. It besides changed the sanction of the parkland wherever the Jackson statue stands from Jackson Park to Court Square Park.

“The statues coming down is the extremity of the iceberg,” Ms. Bryant said. “There are larger systems that request to beryllium dismantled. Educational equity is simply a bully spot to start.”

Preparation for the removal of the statues began connected Friday with the installation of fencing and notices identifying no-parking zones. Streets successful the country volition beryllium closed connected Saturday, and public-viewing areas volition beryllium acceptable up.

Mike Signer, an writer and lawyer who was a metropolis councilor and politician erstwhile the “Unite the Right” rally was held successful 2017, called the removal “a existent measurement forward.” He said the statues had go “totems for these terrorists.”

“In truthful galore ways, Charlottesville was a microcosm for what’s happened successful the country: the advent of flagrant, open, convulsive achromatic nationalism successful nationalist streets,” helium said. “The ‘Unite the Right’ rally was intelligibly a prologue for the insurrection connected Jan. 6.”


Credit...Edu Bayer for The New York Times

He said helium was pleased that the City Council had moved rapidly aft the Virginia Supreme Court ruled successful April that the metropolis could region the statues, a determination that overturned a 2019 Circuit Court ruling that recovered the statues could not beryllium removed due to the fact that they were protected by authorities law.

“The removal volition travel arsenic a alleviation to a batch of people, and determination volition beryllium immoderate healing that, hopefully, volition instrumentality place,” Mr. Signer said.

Only the statues themselves volition beryllium removed, metropolis officials said, adding that the chromatic bases volition beryllium near successful spot and removed astatine a aboriginal date.

Both statues volition beryllium stored successful “a unafraid location” connected metropolis spot until the City Council decides what to bash with them, the metropolis said.

Over the past month, the metropolis has solicited expressions of involvement from museums, humanities societies and others funny successful acquiring the monuments. The metropolis has received 10 responses truthful acold — six from extracurricular Virginia — that are each nether review, the metropolis said, adding that it remained unfastened to further proposals.

After Ms. Byrant submitted her petition, a committee created by the metropolis to analyse Charlottesville’s monuments recovered that the statues of Lee and Jackson, similar different Confederate monuments crossed the country, glorified the South’s racist past.

“The Lee and Jackson statues embodied the Lost Cause mentation of the Civil War, which romanticized the Confederate past and suppressed the horrors of slavery and slavery’s relation arsenic the cardinal origin of the warfare portion affirming the enduring relation of achromatic supremacy,” the committee wrote.

The Lost Cause mythology, the committee added, helped warrant segregation successful housing, employment and acquisition and the disenfranchisement of Black voters.

Jock Yellott, the manager of the Monument Fund, which had sued to halt the removal of the statues, said that taking down the monument to Lee would hinder nationalist treatment of history, including Lee’s relation successful the Civil War.

“If you instrumentality it down, there’s thing near to speech astir — conscionable an bare space,” helium said arsenic helium stood adjacent the statue connected Friday. “There’s thing to instrumentality a representation of, nary crushed for a tourer to travel here, and that is simply a nonaccomplishment to the city.”

In Market Street Park, Cornelia Johnson, a Charlottesville nonmigratory who works arsenic a religion choir manager and pianist, said she didn’t hold with those who see the removal of the statues to beryllium a “great achievement.”

“Taking a statue down is not going to marque things amended for radical of color,” she said. “Taking a statue down is not going to alteration the mode radical act. Change has to travel from within. And it doesn’t fuss maine 1 mode oregon the different if they permission it up.”

But Sally L. Hudson, the State Delegate who represents Charlottesville and was 1 of the sponsors of the measure that allowed localities to region warfare monuments, said the determination was agelong overdue.

“It’s been a agelong clip coming, and our assemblage is acceptable to reclaim this space,” she said connected Saturday. “For a agelong time, this parkland did not consciousness similar genuinely nationalist space. Now we person the accidental to reshape what it feels similar to beryllium present and marque definite this is simply a spot wherever everyone successful Charlottesville feels welcome.”

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