Dear Commons Community,
Four years after a woman was killed and dozens were injured when white nationalists protested the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va., workers removed the statue yesterday (see video above), along with a nearby monument to Stonewall Jackson, another Confederate general. As reported by The New York Times.
The larger-than-life-sized statue of Lee was hoisted off its granite base shortly after 8 a.m. as a crowd of about 200 looked on. As the flatbed truck carrying the bronze statue rumbled down East Jefferson Street, a toot of the truck’s horn prompted cheers and applause.
Jackson was removed about two hours later, and shortly after noon, the City Council held an emergency meeting and voted unanimously to remove yet another statue, this one of the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The 1919 sculpture has long provoked concern for its depiction of Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who is shown along with the two better-known explorers in a crouching manner that some see as subservient.
John Edwin Mason, a history professor at the University of Virginia, scurried around the perimeter of the park as the removal of the Lee statue was underway to keep a close eye on the proceedings. “I’m really happy it’s a boring morning, and boring means that no bad things happened,” he said, adding, “The ordinariness of this occasion is fine.”
The decision by the city on Friday to finally take down the statue of Lee came more than four years after the City Council initially put forth a plan to remove it from what was then known as Lee Park, prompting scores of white nationalists to descend on Charlottesville in August 2017 in a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal.
Counterprotesters confronted the rally, and a white supremacist drove into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, killing a woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring dozens of others. The violence that day, as well as the open racism and anti-Semitism displayed at the rally, intensified calls to remove Confederate statues across the country.
“It feels good. It’s been a long time coming,” said Zyahna Bryant, a University of Virginia student who was a ninth grader in Charlottesville when she started a petition in March 2016 calling on the city to remove the statue of Lee and to rename Lee Park, which is now called Market Street Park.
The city supported Ms. Bryant’s effort and voted to remove the statue of Lee riding on his horse, Traveller, which was erected in 1924, as well as a nearby statue of Jackson on horseback, which was erected in 1921. It also changed the name of the park where the Jackson statue stands from Jackson Park to Court Square Park.
“The statues coming down is the tip of the iceberg,” Ms. Bryant said. “There are larger systems that need to be dismantled. Educational equity is a good place to start.”
An important tip of the iceberg!