Onlookers watched and cheered as a crew took down monuments dedicated to Confederate Generals Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee. The decision to remove the latter ignited the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally and sparked years of legal battles in the city of Charlottesville.
According to AP, Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker spoke about the significance of the moment in front of the crowd and reporters. “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.
The Charlottesville City Council announced Friday (July 9) its plans to hoist the bronze statues off their pedestals in Market Street Park and Court Square Park. They voted unanimously in June to take them down months after the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that a 1997 state law prohibiting localities from removing Confederate war memorials does not apply to these particular statues.
Zyahna Bryant, the Black woman who started a petition to remove the statue of Lee in 2016, called Saturday’s events both “bitter” and “sweet.” In an op-ed for Teen Vogue, the budding activist wrote, “I am proud and trying to force myself to do the hard thing: to feel and be present in the moment, living the same story as so many other Black women and femmes. It’s a story of being forced to feel guilty for celebrating the wins, no matter how big or small they are, a story of having those wins belittled or contextualized as only the beginning,” she wrote. “Black women who have been invested in changing the physical landscapes of our communities are the same people investing time, energy, and resources into the longer strategic and systemic movements to dismantle the underlying systems that these monuments represent. We understand that the statues are not the end, because they were never our beginning.”
“I know this fight will continue, but I also know my spirit and body are not monuments,” she added. “They may seem eternal and steadfast, but it’s not impossible to tear them down. My very existence is a challenge to white supremacy, which isn’t an impervious force. As these monuments come down, we are cracking the thin surface and trying to shake them further from their very foundations. That’s why every last monument to our country’s racist history must be removed. These statues represent the suffering bondage, both past and ongoing.”
The Robert E. Lee statue has been removed from Market Street Park. pic.twitter.com/B1ex7IHp61— Charlottesville City (@CvilleCityHall) July 10, 2021
The city said both Confederate statues will be stored in a secure location on city property until the council makes a final decision on what to do with them.
Check out videos and pictures from the event below:
Robert E. Lee chose to wage war against America & helped kill 600K soldiers for his twisted vision of advancing slavery of Black people.— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) July 10, 2021
Today—156 years after his surrender—his statue has been removed from the Charlottesville public square
the proper platform for white supremacy: a flatbed truck headed out of town pic.twitter.com/zpxb0jtF9e— molly conger (@socialistdogmom) July 10, 2021