Confederate monuments are facing reignited scrutiny as demonstrations against police brutality and racism continue across the country. Statues in at least six cities have been defaced with spray paint by protesters, who have also made attempts to topple them. Amid renewed pressure, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced on Thursday that he will remove one of the most fiercely contested symbols of the Confederacy, Richmond’s Robert E. Lee statue. On Tuesday, protesters gathered around its base chanting, “Tear it down.”
“That statue has been there for a long time. It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. So we’re taking it down,” Northam said during a conference in Richmond. He added that it would be removed “as soon as possible.”
At least two cities have removed controversial monuments in the wake of protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. On Monday, a 115-year-old Confederate statue was removed by crane from a park in Birmingham, Alabama, after being vandalized over the weekend. And on early Tuesday morning, Philadelphia authorities took away the statue of Frank Rizzo, a former mayor and police commissioner who was known for his aggressive policing of Philadelphia’s black and gay communities in the 1960s and 1970s. Days prior to the removal, protesters vandalized the statue and clashed with officers and state troopers who surrounded the monument.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Rizzo statue was slated for removal in 2021. In a statement, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said that the weeklong protests demonstrated that the monument “had to go away for us to understand where we need to go to look forward.”