As protests prompted by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer, continued this week, some state and local leaders are removing monuments honoring the Confederacy.
On Sunday night in Birmingham, Alabama, protesters demanding an end to police violence began tearing down a 52-foot monument of Confederate soldiers and sailors that had been located in a public park for 115 years. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin told protesters on Sunday that he understood their anger and frustration, and asked them to “allow me to finish the job for you.”
The statue was removed the next day.
Several other city leaders have followed suit in recent days, taking down statues widely believed by locals to honor people with racist histories. On Tuesday, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney removed a statue honoring Frank Rizzo, the deceased former police chief and mayor of Philadelphia who deployed brutal tactics and racist invective against Black Philadelphians during his tenures. In a tweet, Mayor Kenney said, “The statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long. It is finally gone.”
Alexandria, Virginia, Mayor Justin Wilson also announced on Tuesday the removal of a Confederate monument in his city. The statue, called “Appomattox,” was erected in 1889. Sharing pictures of the removal on Twitter, Mayor Wilson said, “Alexandria, like all great cities, is constantly changing and evolving.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Thursday that a statue in Richmond, the state capital, honoring the Confederate general Robert E. Lee will be taken down as well.
“In 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people,” Northam said.
Activists in Virginia have worked for decades to remove monuments honoring the Confederacy. Their movement gained momentum following the white supremacist killing of nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, and a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, during which an anti-racist protester was murdered.
Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests, which have occurred in every state across the country, are proving to be yet another inflection point in the movement against honoring racist leaders.
Several other states removed, or announced the removal of, Confederate monuments on Thursday.
In Texas, officials took down a statue honoring a Texas Ranger captain who was in charge of the law enforcement agency when it was sent to prevent a school desegregating in 1957. And in Indianapolis, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced a Confederate monument in the city’s Garfield Park will be removed as well.