These Cities With Confederate Statues Are Doubling Down On Getting Rid Of Them
In the wake of the violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, several American mayors are vocally redoubling efforts to remove Confederate statues in their hometowns.
According to Reuters, the mayors of Baltimore and Lexington, Kentucky both said Monday that they will move forward with plans to remove the divisive statues in their cities. "I am taking action to relocate the Confederate statues. We have thoroughly examined this issue, and heard from many of our citizens." Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced on Twitter Saturday, and confirmed to Reuters in an interview. It's not clear what Gray intends to do with the statues once they are removed.
Reuters also reported that officials in Memphis, Tennessee would try once more to remove a Confederate statue in the city, which city council members voted to remove in 2015. The state government blocked the move, citing the historical value of the statue, but mayor Jim Strickland still hasn't given up two years later. Memphis Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen told CBS affiliate station WREG that the next meeting of the state's historical commission is in October, when he plans to present an appeal.
Despite its majority black population, Baltimore still has at least four Confederate-linked public monuments standing today. Mayor Catherine Pugh announced that it is "[her] intention to move forward with the removal of the statues," but has drawn criticism from her city council for her plan to move the statues outside the city rather than destroy them.
Not everyone is onboard with the calls to destroy Confederate monuments, however. Protesters toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina on Monday, but Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews announced that he would be seeking vandalism charges against those responsible.
The plans to remove the statues is the latest event in an interesting trend of city mayors stepping up to meet public demand, almost in direct defiance of the Trump administration. The mayors of dozens of cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Austin all publicly challenged the executive order released in January threatening to stop funding for sanctuary cities. When Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, 61 mayors signed a letter pledging to maintain the terms of the accords in their cities.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 700 Confederate monuments and statues are still standing in the U.S. today, and nearly half of them can be found in Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Although they may never be eradicated, the push to remove them by the public and local governments is a strong sign of changing attitudes toward a divisive era of American history.