Charlottesville’s statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were removed within a span of eight hours Saturday — capping a years-long effort by many to rid the city of the monuments.
The statue’s removal came more than five years after racial justice activists had renewed a push to take down the monument, an initiative that drew the attention of white supremacists and other racist groups, culminating in the violent “Unite the Right” rally in 2017.
“Taking down these statues is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America grapple with its sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain,” Mayor Nikuyah Walker said, addressing a crowd of dozens as a crane moved into Market Street Park.
The city has been working toward the removal of the century-old bronze statues for years. A change in state law and a Supreme Court of Virginia decision paved the way for Saturday’s actions. Councilors voted on June 7 to remove the statues.
Walker said this is just a small step and that more needs to be done to address white supremacy within the city and beyond.
“We’re one step closer to the tranquility promised by the writer of the Constitution. We are so far from the perfect union but one step closer today as these two statues come down,” she said.
Late Saturday afternoon, the White House released a statement in support of Charlottesville removing the Confederate statues.
“As President [Joe] Biden has said, there is a difference between reminders and remembrances of history,” the statement read. “The president believes that monuments to Confederate leaders belong in museums, not in public places, and welcomes the removal of the statues today.”
The 2017 “Unite the Right” rally drew neo-Nazis, skinheads, Klansmen and other racist groups for what was the largest gathering of such far-right extremists in at least a decade.
The rally left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and dozens more injured after a car plowed into a crowd of peaceful counterprotesters. A Virginia State Police helicopter assisting with the rally also crashed that weekend, killing the pilot and a trooper.