The Lee / Jackson Monument in Baltimore. (Anthony C. Hayes)
BALTIMORE – Four Confederate-era statues in Baltimore were unceremoniously removed in the dead of night, hours after the mayor vowed on Tuesday to move forward with long-time plans to take the monuments down.
The decision comes in advance of a potential rally with White Nationals who planned to protest the removal.
Mayor Catherine Pugh, who took office in December, issued a statement on Monday saying she had read a 34-page report compiled by a task force created under her immediate predecessor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Mayor Pugh – who, like her predecessor, is black – said she had identified key steps for the statues’ removal.
The mayor said on Wednesday that work on the statues began late Tuesday night and that they were hauled away early Wednesday morning. She said she was “acting in the best interest of my city” – the site of riots in 2015. She has recommended placing the statues in the two Confederate cemeteries elsewhere in Maryland.
The statues removed were the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument the Confederate Women’s Monument, and the Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee Monument. A fourth statue, the Roger Brooke Taney Monument, memorializes the Supreme Court Justice from Maryland whose decision in the 1857 Dred Scott case earned him a place in history as a staunch opponent of equal rights for black Americans. The high court’s ruling upheld slavery and denied citizenship to black people.
In 2015, Baltimore changed the name of a popular 500-acre park named for General Lee to Lake Roland Park, after the recreation area’s reservoir. The city’s Robert E. Lee Jr. High School closed in the early 1950s.
On the same day Baltimore’s mayor announced plans to remove the statues, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday acquiesced to the increasingly loud demands to remove from state capitol grounds a statue of Justice Taney.
Hogan said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon that he believed removing the statue from the State House in Annapolis was the “right thing to do.” He said he would ask the State House Trust to act immediately.
“While we cannot hide from our history – nor should we – the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history,” said Hogan, a white Republican in an overwhelmingly blue state
A black North Carolina Central University student was arrested Tuesday after she admitted to climbing and helping pull down a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C. The Confederate Soldiers Monument stood in front of a government office building.
Takiyah Thompson, 22, was videotaped on Monday using a ladder to climb the statue and put a rope around it. The crowd then pulled it down and kicked it, witnesses said.
“I’m tired of white supremacy keeping its foot on my neck and the necks of people who look like me,” Thompson said at a news conference. “That statue glorifies the conditions that oppressed people live in, and it had to go.”
Thompson has been hit with two felonies and two misdemeanor charges.
Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews said in a statement that deputies are working to identify more suspects and plan to pursue felony charges against them.
North Carolina is one of several states in which it is illegal to remove memorials from public property.
There are more than 700 Confederate statues in the U.S. and nearly 300 of them are in North Carolina, Virginia or North Carolina, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The developments about the statues come days after a white-power rally was held in Charlottesville, Va. to protest the pending removal of a statue of Gen. Lee. The rally turned deadly when a man drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. James Fields Jr., 20, has been charged with murder and three counts of malicious wounding. Heyer’s funeral is today.
The article is republished with permission from Talk Media News.
Regina Holmes has more than two decades of experience as a journalist –editing and reporting for news dailies including the Miami Herald, Newsday and the Baltimore Examiner.