Charlottesville removes confederate statue at centre of fatal 2017 right-wing extremist rally

Mayor says taking down statue is small step closer to grappling with ‘sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Saturday 10 July 2021 15:18
<p>Workers remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Market Street Park July 10, 2021 in Charlottesville, Virginia.</p>

Workers remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Market Street Park July 10, 2021 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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The Confederate statue of General Robert E Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia that was at the centre of the fatal 2017 right-wing extremist rally Unite the Right has been removed by the city.

Charlottesville removed the statue on Saturday morning and it will remain on city property until the city council decides what to do with it. The same applies to another statue, one of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, that was also to be removed on Saturday.

A statement from the city said 10 groups have expressed interest in the statues.

“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,” Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

The removals of the statues came following a petition from a local high school student in 2016. The following year, the city council voted to take down the statues. The removal was pushed back because of a legal challenge to the decision, a challenge that was struck down by the Virginia Supreme Court in April of this year.

In the summer of 2017, the possible removal of the statues became a rallying point for far-right extremists. During the Unite the Right rally on 12 August 2017, violence erupted as neo-Nazis fought with counter-protesters. One woman was killed and dozens were injured when a man drove a car into a crowd.

The statues in Charlottesville were put up in the 1920s as actions were taken across the South to validate the confederacy and suppress African Americans, according to Sterling Howell, programmes coordinator at the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.

The statue of Gen Jackson was put on land that had been a thriving Black neighbourhood.

“This was at the height of Jim Crow segregation, at the height of lynchings in American history,” he said, according to NPR. “There was a clear statement that they weren’t welcome.”

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