After the violent protests in Charlottesville over the weekend, which left one person dead and at least 19 injured, two lawmakers are beginning to mobilize the efforts to remove Confederate statues from their cities as well.
The scheduled rally and protest that took place were in response to plans for the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, just blocks from the University of Virginia campus.
Across the United States, the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that at least 709 Confederate statues and monuments remain, including some above the Mason-Dixon Line. In 2015, there was a push to remove Confederate flags across the country following the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist murdered nine African Americans at a church. Now, after Saturday’s violent protest in Charlottesville, two more cities have decided to start the long and controversial process of removing statues linked to the Confederacy.
Baltimore and Lexington, Kentucky, are the latest cities to announce their decision to remove Confederate statues, in direct response to this weekend’s violence.
However, this will not be a short or easy process. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, since April 2016 only nine Confederate statues have been removed, demonstrating the long political process required to remove Confederate-era statues. What’s more, these statues have ignited an emotional debate that has, in places like Charlottesville, emboldened the white nationalist movement.
On Saturday, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced he is planning to remove the statues of Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan and Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge, specifically because of the unrest that took place in Charlottesville.
“The tragic events in Charlottesville today accelerated the announcement I intended to make next week,” that he will be taking the next steps required to remove the statues, Gray announced on Facebook.
A similar action has taken place in Baltimore, where more than 1,000 protesters marched Sunday in solidarity with Charlottesville’s counterprotesters. Mayor Catherine Pugh announced Monday that she will move forward with removing all four of the city’s standing Confederate statues.
Anthony McCarthy, a spokesperson for Pugh, told me “she is moving very quickly” in comparison to the previous mayor, who simply published a report on recommending the removal of only two of the statues. Pugh will set up a task force to begin the process of removal on Wednesday.
Pugh has already met with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to discuss the process he went through earlier this year when he removed four Confederacy-related statues from the city.
However, lawmakers in cities like Richmond, Virginia, have decided to keep the statues, even after the events of this weekend and months of internal debate.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced Monday that he maintains his belief that it is better to add context to the statues than to remove them.
“For me, it’s about telling the complete truth. I don’t think removal of symbols does anything for telling the actual truth or changes the state and culture of racism in this country today,” he says.
This comes as the Americans for Richmond Monument Preservation asked the state for permission to hold a rally next month at Richmond’s Robert E. Lee monument, eerily mirroring the events that transpired in Charlottesville over the weekend.
"I would make the request that in light of the events that happened in Charlottesville that we take a deep look at whether or not this is something that should go forward on Sept. 16," Stoney said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.