RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Virginia authorities removed busts and a statue commemorating Confederation generals and officers from its historic state capitol, which comprised the 11 southern states that separated from the United States between 1861 and 1865.
Those busts, statues, and the Confederate flag are seen by some as a symbol of pride or identity, or a historical heritage or military emblem that only symbolizes the heritage of the southern states, but others regard them as a symbol of racism, white supremacy. , intolerance and slavery.
Among the monuments removed overnight, a bronze statue of General Robert E. Lee stood on the same spot where he took command of the slave state’s armed forces in the Civil War almost 160 years ago.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police on May 25 has sparked a national protest movement that has led to the removal of symbols from the Confederacy, officially called the Confederate States of America.
Speaker of the Virginia Lower House, Democrat Eileen Filler-Corn, quietly ordered the removal of the statue of Lee and busts of Generals JEB Stuart and Stonewall Jackson, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and others from the Old House. A crew that worked all night Thursday removed the monuments and their plaques, loaded them onto a truck, and took them to an undisclosed location.
This sneaky method avoids the possibility of protests or a lawsuit to keep the monuments in their places, but can draw criticism that the operation was carried out without prior public discussion.
“Virginia has a story to tell that transcends the Confederation and its participants from afar,” Filler-Corn said in a statement. “The time has come to give context to our capitol and tell the full story of the community.”
The Virginia state capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson, is the first to open after independence and was used as a Confederation congress for much of the Civil War.