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A statue of Robert E. Lee was removed from Charlottesville, VA, on Saturday, part of a movement to reckon with America’s history of celebrating racism and white supremacy. The statue, which honored the Confederate general who fought to maintain chattel slavery, had been in place since 1921.
A statue honoring Stonewall Jackson was also removed, to cheers from the crowds of people who had gathered to observe the historic occasion. Mr. Jackson fought for the Confederate Army of the South, alongside Mr. Lee.
Both statues will be stored until the city determines how to dispose of them.
Removal follows years-long battle
Charlottesville, VA, was the site of the violent Unite the Right rally in 2017. A counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed when a Unite the Right supporter drove his car through a crowd. Twice-impeached former President Trump later said that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the rally.
The local movement to remove the Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson statues from Charlottesville began in 2016 with high school student Zyahna Bryant. Ms. Bryant, now a student at the University of Virginia, started a petition to tear down the monuments that honor men who fought to maintain chattel slavery.
In an interview about the statues’ removal, Ms. Bryant said, “This is well overdue. No platform for white supremacy. No platform for racism. No platform for hate.”
Statue’s removal makes a statement
This is not the first time that statues honoring the confederacy have been removed. Last summer, during ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, four other statues were removed from Richmond, the capital of Virginia. One more Robert E Lee statue in Virginia is in the midst of a statewide court battle, with the governor vowing to remove the monument.
Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker recognized the importance of the gesture. “Taking down this statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America, grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain,” she said, as the statue was removed by crane.