Charlottesville, Va. removed statues of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on Saturday, four years after the bronzes sparked a deadly riot and heated national debate over historic monuments and America’s past.
A small crowd of activists cheered briefly as city workers used a crane to hoist the century-old statue of Lee onto a waiting flatbed truck, where it was hauled off to a storage facility until the city council decides its ultimate fate.
“We are taking down a traitor (read confederate f-boi) and his horse,” Zyahna Bryant, the teen activist whose online petition sparked the removal effort in 2016, tweeted Saturday morning.
“My work here is done,” she exulted in a later post.
The removal crew moved on to a second city park to do the same to an effigy of another rebel leader, Jackson. The two statues’ ornate stone pedestals will be removed at a later date.
The banishment of the two monuments, both erected in the early 1920s, came nearly four years after a “Unite the Right” rally protesting their planned removal erupted in street violence between white nationalists and left-wing demonstrators.
The chaotic scene turned deadly when James Fields Jr., a 22-year-old rallygoer, rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32.
Fields, who pleaded guilty to federal hate-crime charges, was sentenced to life in prison in 2019.
A Virginia state law passed last year gave local governments the right to remove Confederate war memorials after holding public hearings and offering the monuments to museums and historical societies.
Charlottesville has received 10 requests from groups both within and outside of Virginia, NBC29 reported Friday.
“Taking down this statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America, grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy black people for economic gain,” Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said as the Lee statue was readied for transport.