Protesters Have Been Really Successful At Getting Statues With Racist History Removed

Police officers guard the controversial Frank Rizzo statue as protestors clash with police near City Hall, in Philadelphia, PA on May 30, 2020. Cities around the nation see thousands take to the streets to protest po... Police officers guard the controversial Frank Rizzo statue as protestors clash with police near City Hall, in Philadelphia, PA on May 30, 2020. Cities around the nation see thousands take to the streets to protest police brutality after the murder of George Floyd. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 3, 2020 12:00 p.m.

In a side effect of the nationwide unrest over the killing of George Floyd, protesters have effectively forced the removal of multiple statues memorializing a racist past. 

They’ve homed in on Confederate iconography in particular. 

In Birmingham, Alabama, the Confederate Sailors and Soldiers Monument that has stood in the city for over a century has been taken down. 

Protesters had already vandalized it and were threatening to tear it down themselves, when they were quelled by the Birmingham mayor. They had also torn down a statue of Confederate Navy Captain Charles Linn, one of the city’s founders. 

“Allow me to finish the job for you,” Mayor Randall Woodfin told the crowd. “I wanted you to hear it directly from me. But I need you to stand down.”

The statue had been totally dismantled and removed by Tuesday.

“I’ve been moved by the outpouring of support, including offerings from everyday citizens to help pay for any costs,” Woodfin said in a press conference Tuesday, of the statue’s removal. “This act is a very, very powerful symbol of our city’s desire to move beyond the pain of the past united into the future.” 

That may not be the end of the statue’s story, however. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sued the city on Tuesday under the Alabama Monuments Preservation Act.

“Because the Linn Park monument was located on public property for over 40 years, its removal subjects the Defendant to a $25,000 fine,” Marshall asserted in his complaint.

He had threatened Monday that he would file a civil complaint if the statue was removed.

Over in Alexandria, Virginia, the United Daughters of the Confederacy decided to preemptively take down a 131-year-old statue of a Confederate soldier Tuesday to avoid its destruction. 

Per the Washington Post, the group planned to remove it in July after the city’s years-long attempts to remove it from public property, but expedited their timeline in light of the protests. 

Alexandria’s mayor marked the statue’s removal on Twitter. 

The protesters haven’t limited themselves to Confederate monuments, though. 

In Philadelphia, the city quietly removed a statue of Frank Rizzo, former police commissioner and mayor, from its perch across the street from City Hall in the early hours of Wednesday morning. 

“The statue is a deplorable monument to racism, bigotry, and police brutality for members of the Black community, the LGBTQ community, and many others,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “The treatment of these communities under Mr. Rizzo’s leadership was among the worst periods in Philadelphia’s history.”

He added that the city had planned to remove the statue when they renovated a nearby plaza, calling the delay a “mistake.” 

“The continued display of the statue has understandably enraged and hurt many Philadelphians, including those protesting the heinous murders of George Floyd and too many others,” he added. “I have seen and heard their anguish.”

Over the weekend, the protesters had covered the statue in graffiti and attempted to light it on fire.

The statue will be placed in storage until a plan is developed to “donate, relocate, or otherwise dispose of it.”

And in Tennessee, protesters tore down a statue of Edward Carmack outside the state Capitol in Nashville. Carmack was a lawmaker and newspaper editor who fostered a particular hatred for journalist Ida B. Wells and her writings in support of the civil rights movement. His editorials against her ultimately provoked the burning of her newspaper office.

David Roberson, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of General Services, told TPM that the department must “repair or restore the statue and then return it to its location on the Capitol grounds” under state law. He added that the statue is currently in storage until the department can obtain quotes for the repair work.

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