On Saturday morning, the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, finally removed large bronze statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson from two public parks. The move comes nearly four years after a previous effort by the city to take down the monuments sparked the notorious “Unite the Right” rally on August 11 and 12, 2017, when white-supremacist protesters clashed with counter-protesters. Dozens were injured in the violence, and a 33-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was murdered by a white supremacist who drove his car into into a group of counter-protesters.
The removal of the statues had originally been approved by the Charlottesville City Council in 2017, in response to a petition started by a then-student at a local high school, Zyahna Bryant. In April, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the city could take down the statues, overturning an earlier Circuit Court ruling that had blocked the move. In June, the City Council voted again to remove the statues.
Bryant, who now attends the University of Virginia, was present for the removal on Saturday. “It’s been a long time coming,” she said, also emphasizing that taking down the monuments “is the tip of the iceberg” as “there are larger systems that need to be dismantled.”
The statues were neo-Confederate symbols erected in the early 1920s at the height of the Jim Crow South.
Charlottesville, after being blocked from taking down the monuments, had previously renamed the two parks where the statues had been so they no longer referenced the two generals.
The City Council also voted in an emergency session on Saturday to remove another controversial statue, of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea, and that work was performed on Saturday afternoon by the same contractor who removed the Confederate monuments. Another statue considered offensive to Native Americans, of Revolutionary War general George Rogers Clark, will be removed from the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Sunday.
Below are images and videos of the historic and long-overdue removal of the Confederate statues, which the city says will now be stored in a secure location while it determines what to do with them.