Far-right leaders may have organized a protest over the weekend to keep a statue of a Confederate leader from being removed by city officials in Charlottesville, Virginia, but Robert E. Lee's direct descendants have since spoken out about the protests — and the violence that ensued — saying they are perfectly fine with Confederate monuments being taken down.
Statues of Confederate leaders like Lee have been a heated source of controversy in recent decades. While some argue that individuals who fought to preserve slavery in the United States should not be glorified, others believe that these monuments are an important part of U.S. history and should be preserved.
On Wednesday, CNN reported that Lee's great-great grandson weighed in on the controversy, saying that it is "appropriate" to remove images of his distant relative and others like him:
Eventually, someone is going to have to make a decision, and if that's the local lawmaker, so be it. But we have to be able to have that conversation without all of the hatred and the violence. And if they choose to take those statues down, fine. Maybe it's appropriate to have them in museums or to put them in some sort of historical context in that regard. Fine.
He went on to call Saturday's violence in Charlottesville "senseless" and "sad" for his family.
In Charlottesville this weekend, a bronze statue of Lee in the middle of a public park was the reason a large group of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists gathered with torches and weapons for a "Unite the Right" rally, which ultimately turned deadly when one of them rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters with his car.
Following the violence, Lee descendants released a statement condemning those who "hide behind" their ancestor's name:
At the end of the Civil War, [Lee] implored the nation to come together to heal our wounds and to move forward to become a more unified nation. He never would have tolerated the hateful words and violent actions of white supremacists, the KKK, or Neo Nazis. While the debate about how we memorialize figures from our past continues, we the descendants of Robert E. Lee decry in the strongest terms the misuse of his memory by those advancing a message of intolerance and hate.
The statement was made on the same day that President Trump defended the preservation of Confederate monuments, claiming that removing statues of Confederate leaders could be a slippery slope that would eventually lead to the removal of statues of national heroes like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.