A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was demolished in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, nearly four years after the white supremacist protests Plans to eliminate him sparked clashes in which a woman was killed.
Shortly after the removal of Lee’s statue, a statue of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was also removed from its base in another city park. Spectators who had gathered hours earlier cheered as the statues were loaded onto trucks and driven.
Dozens of spectators lined the blocks surrounding the park, and joy rose as the statue of Lee rose from the pedestal. There was a visible police presence, with streets blocked to vehicular traffic by fences and heavy trucks.
“The demolition of this statue is one more small step toward the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America, fight the sin of being willing to destroy blacks for economic gain,” the Charlottesville mayor said. , Nikuyah Walker, as the crane approached the monument.
The statues honoring the leaders of the pro-slavery Confederate side in the American Civil War have become a focus of protests against racism in recent years.
Planning for the removal of Lee’s statue from the campus in 2017 sparked a concentration of white supremacists this proved fatal when a self-described neo-Nazi drove a car into a crowd and killed a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, 32.
Weeks later, Charlottesville City Council unanimously ordered the removal of the Jackson statue.
Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallagher said the peaceful scene when the statues were removed on Saturday – a stark contrast to what happened in Charlottesville four years ago – “is a victory … for Charlottesville and a victory for to the people who have really been campaigning. “
“Things have gone very well today and I think the city of Charlottesville took a significant step forward,” Gallagher reported.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors US far-right and white supremacist groups, dit last month, that since a deadly 2015 attack on a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, “333 symbols of white supremacy have fallen” across the country.
But “there are still more than 2,000 symbols of hatred,” the group said.
“A long time to come”
Jotaka Eaddy, CEO of consulting firm Full Circle Strategies, said Confederate monuments are “a symbol of white supremacy and racism.”
“It’s been a long time since all these statues went down, especially in Charlottesville,” Eaddy told Al Jazeera on Saturday, calling the removal of the Lee and Jackson statues “a step in the right direction.”
Citizens, including the Virginia Division of the Children of Confederate Veterans, sued Charlottesville for withdrawal plans. In April, Virginia’s highest court ruled that the city could remove the two Confederate statues, overturning a state Circuit Court decision that had upheld the citizen’s lawsuit.
Charlottesville will keep the statues in storage until it makes a final decision on what to do with them, officials said in a statement Friday.
Kristin Szakos, a former Charlottesville City Council member who watched the statues be removed, said “people in this community have been trying to bring down these statues for a hundred years.”
He added: “I think we’re finally ready to be a community that doesn’t telegraph through our public art that we’re pretty good with white supremacy.”
Still, Eaddy of Full Circle Strategies said systemic racism continues to assault the country.
He pointed out a widespread effort restricting voting rights in a way that disproportionately impacts blacks after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, as well as attempts to forbade critical race theory, as issues to be addressed.
“The belly of this is racism and white supremacy, and we must uproot it just as we must eliminate these symbols of hatred and racism in our nation,” Eaddy told Al Jazeera.