US: Confederate statue removed near site of 2017 far-right rally

Racial justice protests renew calls to remove Confederate monuments, which critics say glorify the US’s racist history.

confederate statue
The 'At Ready' statue of a Confederate soldier has been removed from outside the county court in Charlottesville, Virginia [AFP]

A Confederate statue has been taken down in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist rally three years ago resulted in a counter-protester’s death.

The Albemarle County Board of supervisors voted in August to remove the “At Ready” statue, which displays a Confederate soldier, from outside the county court.

Racial justice protests in the United States, which began in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and have since been fuelled by other high-profile cases, have renewed calls for the removal of Confederate monuments across the country.

On Saturday, a crowd in Charlottesville cheered as the “At Ready” statue, which has been in place for 111 years, was lifted off its pedestal with a crane.

The crowd also cheered when the statue’s bronze plaques and an accompanying cannon were also removed, a livestream on the county’s Facebook page showed.

Confederate monuments have been criticised by many people in the US who say they glorify the country’s slave-owning and racist history. Their defenders, meanwhile, argue that the statues are symbols of pride for the history and heritage of the American South that extends beyond slavery.

“It is with pride that the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors takes action to remove the At Ready statue. We know that taking this action is not some end point,” said Ned Gallaway, chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, in a statement in August after the board voted to remove the statue.

“We have a lot of work to do and that work is in our policy work, in affordable housing, in our schools – we know we have a long way to go. I’m looking forward to getting to that work,” he said. 

The “At Ready” statue is about a block from the statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, which became the focal point of the 2017 Unite the Right Rally.

White supremacist and neo-Nazi groups said they decided to descend on the city to protect the statue amid a reckoning over Confederate imagery in the US.

Heather Heyer, 32, was killed during the event when a man drove a car through a crowd of counter-protesters.

The city of Charlottesville soon after voted to remove the statue of Lee, as well as one of Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, but a legal challenge has sent the case to the state’s Supreme Court.

An attempt by the state’s governor to remove a huge statue of Lee on state property in Richmond, Virginia, has also been blocked pending a legal challenge.

In June, protesters in that city pulled down a statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, prompting the mayor to order the removal of 11 Confederate memorials on city property.

Source: Al Jazeera