Controversial statue of Robert E. Lee removed in Virginia capital
Washington, Sep 8 (EFE).- A municipal work crew removed the controversial bronze statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Wednesday from its site in Richmond, Virginia, amid a debate over the continued public display of symbols of the Confederacy around the United States.
The workers lifted the 12-ton statue from its base with a crane early in the morning, cut it into pieces before a cheering crowd and transported it away from its site in Monument Square, in the historic downtown area of the former Confederate capital, where it had stood for more than a century.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, had announced in 2020 his intention to remove Lee’s 21-foot-high statue but several legal challenges delayed its removal until today.
“After 133 years, the statue of Robert E. Lee has finally come down – the last Confederate statue on Monument Avenue (Richmond), and the largest in the South,” said Northam in a statement.
“The public monuments reflect the story we choose to tell about who we are as a people. It is time to display history as history, and use the public memorials to honor the full and inclusive truth of who we are today and in the future,” he added.
Several statues of Gen. Lee – who was the commander of the Confederate army until he surrendered his troops to Union forces in April 1865, thus ending the rebellion – have been removed over the past few years from assorted cities in the southern US.
The most controversial of the statues, the one in Charlottesville, Virginia, served as the inspiration for the violent 2017 demonstration by white supremacists in which one person died and more than a dozen were injured.
Ten southern US states, with the aim of preserving slavery as the backbone of their agricultural economies, seceded from the United States in 1861, sparking the four-year Civil War, and many African Americans consider emblems honoring or glorifying the Confederate forces, military or political leaders to be deeply offensive.
In June 2020, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for the prosecution of any act of vandalism against federal property, including statues of Confederate leaders.
The decree was issued in response to the wave of protests against racism that convulsed the US over the May 2020 death of African American George Floyd, who was suffocated by a white police officer, protests that led to angry crowds toppling a number of statues.
Four months ago, President Joe Biden cancelled many of Trump’s executive orders, including the one referring to the destruction of Confederate statues.