, Va. (AP) — A Confederate monument that contributed to a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia
, has been removed from its stone pedestal.
The removal of the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee
began early Saturday morning, and a second Confederate monument was also scheduled to be demolished.
As the crane approached the monument, Charlottesville Mayor
Nikuyah Walker delivered a speech to reporters and onlookers.
“Taking down this statue brings us one step closer to our goal of assisting Charlottesville, Virginia, and America
in grappling with the sin of willingly destroying Black people
for economic gain,” Walker said.
Years of contention, community anguish, and litigation preceded the removal of the statue, which had been stalled for years due to a long, winding legal battle
and changes in a state law that protected war memorials.
@NBC29 pic.twitter.com/INXpnhxcUu — Andrew Webb (@Awebb2312) July 10, 2021
The removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and another of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall
on Saturday comes nearly four years after violence erupted at the infamous “Unite the Right” rally, which killed Heather Heyer, a peaceful counterprotester. The violence sparked a national debate over racial equity, which was exacerbated by former President Donald Trump
’s insistence that there was “blame on both sides.”
The city announced Friday that the statues
would be removed.
Only the statues, not their stone pedestals, will be removed on Saturday, and they will be taken down and stored in a secure location until the City Council makes a final decision on what to do with them. According to state law, the city was required to solicit parties interested in taking the statues during an offer period that ended Thursday, and it received ten responses.
A coalition of activists praised the city for moving
quickly to remove the statues after the offer period expired, claiming that 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,” according to the Take 'Em Down Cville coalition.
The most recent removal campaign focused on the Lee monument began in 2016, thanks in part to a petition started by a Black high school
student, Zyahna Bryant, prompting the city to file a lawsuit
, putting the city's plans on hold, and white supremacists
seized on the issue.
“This is long overdue,” said Bryant, who is now a University
of Virginia student. “There will be no platform for white supremacy.”
“There will be no platform for racism