The town of Charlottesville, Virginia removed two statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson on Saturday to cheers from crowds of onlookers after a lawsuit preventing the removal was resolved earlier in the year.
Charlottesville officials announced the statues’ removal on Friday, and they were taken down on Saturday morning. Only the statues were removed, with the stone bases to be removed at a later date.
The statues will be stored by the city for the current time, with their future unknown.
The statues were first petitioned to be removed in 2016, but a lawsuit was filed to block the removal at the time, citing a law that protected war memorials. That law was changed in Virginia earlier this year, paving the way for the removal.
“An incredible day”
“I’m ecstatic that we’re here now. It’s sad that it’s taken so much to get us to this point. But this is an incredible day,” local Black activist Don Gathers, who has long worked toward the goal of the statue’s removal.
“Good atmosphere, good vibes, good energy,” local resident Jim Henson said.
A local church played hymns from its front steps as the statues came down, but not everyone was happy about the removal.
Historians fear that removing statues is an attempt to “erase history,” which could lead to more atrocities or racial unrest in the future.
Charlottesville was the site of a 2017 extremist rally where white supremacist groups congregated, and which resulted in one death and several injuries when a car plowed into protesters.
Third statue removed
After the first two statues were removed, Charlottesville city council hastily met and voted to remove a third statue depicting Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea as well.
That statue was removed on Saturday afternoon due to a depiction of Sacagawea, a Native American guide, as subservient and weak, which some had criticized.
Cities should have a right to display history in whatever way they deem appropriate, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to emphasize different historical events or wanting a more accurate depiction of history. But if all the Confederate statues are removed in America, will we forget the impact of a civil war and repeat past mistakes?