Four years after a woman was killed and dozens were injured when white nationalists protested the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va., workers removed the statue on Saturday, along with a nearby monument to Stonewall Jackson, another Confederate general.
The larger-than-life-sized statue of Lee was hoisted off its granite base shortly after 8 a.m. as a crowd of about 200 looked on. As the flatbed truck carrying the bronze statue rumbled down East Jefferson Street, a toot of the truck’s horn prompted cheers and applause. Jackson was removed about two hours later.
John Edwin Mason, a history professor at the University of Virginia, scurried around the perimeter of the park to keep a close eye on the proceedings. “I’m really happy it’s a boring morning, and boring means that no bad things happened,” he said. “We were all nervous that more bad things could happen. I think the mundaneness of this is fine. The ordinariness of this occasion is fine.”
The decision by the city on Friday to finally take down the statue of Lee came more than four years after the City Council initially put forth a plan to remove it from what was then known as Lee Park, prompting scores of white nationalists to descend on Charlottesville in August 2017 in a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal.
This is not only a victory for justice in our historical memory, but also an important point in our current literal war with people dying over different interpretations of the past. Allowing the statue where the fascists killed someone to stay was inviting a secondary monument for it as a site of memory for their murderous culture war.