A crane hoisted a Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue off its pedestal in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday morning nearly four years after its planned removal sparked the “Unite The Right” rally that erupted into violence and left one woman dead.
The Associated Press reported, “Because of litigation and changes to a state law dealing with war memorials, the city had been unable to act until now.” According to the AP, “dozens” of spectators lined the blocks surrounding the park, “and a cheer went up as the statue lifted off the pedestal.” There was “a visible police presence,” the report added.
“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,” said Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker, an Independent, in a speech before the removal.
156 years after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, the Robert E. Lee statue has finally been removed in Charlottesville.pic.twitter.com/FH9JQv7XvO
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) July 10, 2021
Shortly afterward, crews removed a statue of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson nearby.
On Friday, city officials announced the two bronze statues would come down on Saturday, but their stone bases would temporarily remain in place and removed at a later date. City Council had voted unanimously in June to remove both statues from public parks.
The Stonewall Jackson statue has been removed from Court Square Park. pic.twitter.com/5lK399Bx52
— Charlottesville City (@CvilleCityHall) July 10, 2021
“City Council has the sole authority to determine the ultimate, final disposition of the statues,” the announcement said. “The City Manager is not authorized to destroy the statues or to sell them without further action by City Council. Both statues will be stored in a secure location on City property until City Council makes a final decision on disposition.”
City officials indicated they have reached out to museums, historical societies, and representatives from government and military battlefields that might be interested in acquiring the statues and have received 10 responses so far.
The removals come more than five years after Zyahna Bryant, then a freshman at Charlottesville High School, started a petition to rename Lee Park and remove the monument paying tribute to the general. In February 2017, the city council voted to take down the Lee statue.
@ZyahnaB started a petition to remove Confederate statues in 2016. Today she got to see that happen pic.twitter.com/83IhX23Sfq
— Lisa Provence (@lisa_provence) July 10, 2021
A lawsuit was filed that force the city to put those plans on hold, however. The controversy escalated later that year when demonstrators on both sides of the issue converged on the town.
As The Daily Wire previously reported:
In August 2017, far-right groups including white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and members of the Ku Klux Klan gathered for the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. The event turned violent and then deadly when one protester rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman, Heather Heyer.
The rally was held to protest the removal of the city’s Confederate statues, which was proposed in the wake of another incident of racial violence, the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist shot and killed nine black members of a congregation.
The Charlottesville rally became an ongoing controversy during former President Donald Trump’s term in office after he held a press conference in which he said there were “very fine people on both sides” as well as “blame on both sides.”
“I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned, totally,” Trump added.
Trump later attempted to clarify his remarks, saying that he was “talking about people who went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general.”
Related: Confederate Monuments At Center Of Deadly ‘Unite The Right’ Rally To Come Down