Monuments deemed racist topple in wake of George Floyd's killing

·Senior Writer

Updated June 11.

One consequence of the worldwide protests sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has been a renewed focus on removing monuments long deemed racist. Some governments are trying to get ahead of demonstrators, removing statues so they can be relocated, while other monuments have been toppled by protesters.

Since 2015, when a Confederate sympathizer killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., there has been a renewed push for the removal of Confederate iconography and monuments to historical figures and events viewed as racist. These efforts redoubled following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 in protest of the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue there.

Here is a rundown of all the monuments that have been removed since the protests over Floyd’s death began.

Alexandria, Va. - Confederate soldier statue

On June 2, the city removed the statue of a Confederate soldier that has stood at the intersection of Prince and Washington Streets  for 131 years after Mayor Justin Wilson came to an agreement with the United Daughters of the Confederacy to avert vandalism or damage to the statue. The city had been trying to remove the monument from its prominent location for years but was blocked by a state law. The law was recently amended by a new Democratic majority in the state Legislature.  

“Alexandria, like all great cities, is constantly changing and evolving,” said Wilson in a tweet that included images of a crew removing the statue.

Birmingham, Ala. - Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument

A toppled statue of Charles Linn, a founder of Birmingham, Ala., who was in the Confederate Navy, on June 1 following a night of unrest. (Jay Reeves/AP Photo)
A toppled statue of Charles Linn, a founder of Birmingham, Ala., who was in the Confederate Navy, on June 1 following a night of unrest. (Jay Reeves/AP Photo)

On May 31, protesters attempted to tear down the Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument, a 52-foot-tall obelisk in Linn Park that commemorates the lives of Southern soldiers killed in the Civil War. The park is named after Charles Linn, a captain in the Confederate Navy. While protesters were unable to destroy the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, they did tear down a statue of Linn, spray-painting it before pulling it down with ropes.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has been battling state legislators and the courts over his attempts to remove the Soldiers & Sailors Monument. Woodfin ordered the monument taken down in an attempt to ease racial tensions in the city, with the state attorney general saying the city would be assessed a one-time $25,000 fine. On June 2, the last sections of the obelisk were finally removed from the park.  

Boston - Christopher Columbus statue

A woman at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park in Boston on Wednesday looks at a statue of Christopher Columbus, which had its head removed. (Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
A woman at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park in Boston on Wednesday looks at a statue of Christopher Columbus, which had its head removed. (Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

On the morning of June 10, Boston officials learned that a statue of Christopher Columbus had been decapitated. Located in Christopher Columbus Park in the city’s North End, it paid tribute to the Italian explorer who, for centuries, was credited with “discovering” America. Mayor Marty Walsh said the entire statue would be removed and kept in storage as its future was reassessed.

There has been a movement to stop honoring Columbus — who has a federal holiday named after him in October — due to his enslavement and murder of indigenous natives of the Caribbean.

“This particular statue has been subject to repeated vandalism here in Boston, and given the conversations that we’re certainly having right now in our city of Boston and throughout the country, we’re also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of this action,” Walsh said.

Bristol, England - Edward Colston statue

A statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston falls into the water in Bristol, England, on June 7 after protesters pulled it down during a protest against racial inequality. (Keir Gravil via Reuters)
A statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston falls into the water in Bristol, England, on June 7 after protesters pulled it down during a protest against racial inequality. (Keir Gravil via Reuters)

On June 7, the statue of former slave trader Edward Colston was removed in the city of Bristol; protesters pulled it off its pedestal, knelt on its neck in acknowledgment of the killing of George Floyd and then tossed it into Bristol Harbor. Historians estimate that Colston’s company was responsible for the selling of approximately 100,000 slaves to the Americas in the late 17th century.

A petition urging the removal of the 18-foot bronze statue, which was erected in Colston’s hometown to honor his philanthropy, had garnered thousands of signatures in recent weeks. 

Jacksonville, Fla. - Confederate soldier statue

On the morning of June 9, crews removed a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier from Hemming Plaza, where it had stood since 1898. 

“The Confederate monument is gone,” Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, announced at a rally later that day. “And the others in this city will be removed as well. We hear your voices. We have heard your voices.”

The city is also in discussions about removing 10 other Civil War monuments. 

Louisville, Ky.  - Statue of John Breckinridge Castleman

On June 8, the city removed a statue of Confederate officer John Breckinridge Castleman. The city said it would take the statue to a storage facility for cleaning before relocating it to Castleman’s burial site in a nearby cemetery.

Castleman served in both the Confederate and U.S. armies, and while the statue showed him in civilian clothes, the historical markers nearby noted his service in the Confederacy in addition to his work establishing the city’s park system.

“We have much more to do to dismantle the structures that got us here,” wrote Mayor Greg Fischer. “This is just one step, and I promise to do everything needed so that African-Americans in our city are afforded the justice, opportunity and equity they deserve.” 

Minneapolis, Minn. - Statue of Christopher Columbus

In the late afternoon of June 10, protesters pulled down a statue of Columbus outside the Minnesota State Capitol building. Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington informed reporters two hours before it came down that the state knew a group was planning on removing it. Shortly after it was ripped off the pedestal, a crew moved it to a flatbed truck and drove the bronze statue away.

Mobile, Ala. - Statue of Raphael Semmes

The pedestal where the statue of Adm. Raphael Semmes previously stood in Mobile, Ala. (WMPI-TV via AP)
The pedestal where the statue of Adm. Raphael Semmes previously stood in Mobile, Ala. (WMPI-TV via AP)

Early on the morning of June 5, crews removed a 120-year-old statue of Confederate Adm. Raphael Semmes after it became a flash point for protesters. Semmes was jailed on treason charges in New York City before returning home after the Civil War, where he was later prohibited by the federal government from taking office as an elected judge in Mobile. 

“Moving this statue will not change the past,” said Mayor Sandy Stimpson. “It is about removing a potential distraction so we may focus clearly on the future of our city. That conversation, and the mission to create One Mobile, continues today.”

The state attorney general is investigating the removal.

Montgomery, Ala. - Robert E. Lee statue

A pedestal that held a statue of Robert E. Lee stands empty outside a high school named for the Confederate general in Montgomery, Ala., on June 2. (Kim Chandler/AP Photo)
A pedestal that held a statue of Robert E. Lee stands empty outside a high school named for the Confederate general in Montgomery, Ala., on June 2. (Kim Chandler/AP Photo)

On June 1, four protesters pulled down the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee outside a high school with the same name. They were arrested on first-degree criminal mischief, but a judge dropped the charges after the district attorney’s office said there were errors in the legal documents. 

The commander of the Confederate Army, Lee has been memorialized across the South with statues depicting his likeness and roads, highways, schools and government buildings named in his honor. 

On June 9, some alumni of the city’s high schools named after Confederate officials called for their renaming and the permanent removal of statues commemorating the men. 

Nashville - Edward Carmack statue

Protesters toppled the statue of Edward Carmack outside the state Capitol in Nashville on May 30 after a peaceful demonstration turned violent. (Kimberlee Kruesi/AP Photo)
Protesters toppled the statue of Edward Carmack outside the state Capitol in Nashville on May 30 after a peaceful demonstration turned violent. (Kimberlee Kruesi/AP Photo)

On May 30, protesters at the state Capitol toppled the statue of Edward Carmack, a senator and newspaper publisher who wrote editorials endorsing the lynching of some African-American men, and others attacking civil rights journalist Ida B. Wells.  

The state has said that the statue would be returned to its base but would remain in storage until it was repaired.

Philadelphia - Statue of Frank Rizzo

A crew paints over a Frank Rizzo mural on Ninth Street in Philadelphia on June 7. (David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
A crew paints over a Frank Rizzo mural on Ninth Street in Philadelphia on June 7. (David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

On June 3, crews removed the statue of Frank Rizzo, a former Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner, from its base near City Hall, a long-standing demand by activists and a step promised by the city in 2017. A week earlier, demonstrators had attempted to take down the statue on their own, vandalizing it in the process. 

Rizzo remains a polarizing figure in the city, a tough-on-crime police commissioner in the 1960s and a tougher-on-crime mayor who campaigned by urging citizens to “vote white.” During his time in City Hall in the 1970s, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit saying the city’s police department’s use of excessive force “shocks the conscience.” A mural of Rizzo in South Philadelphia was painted over a few days later. 

Richmond, Va. - Statues of Christopher Columbus, Jefferson Davis and Williams Carter Wickham

The statue of Christopher Columbus in a lake in Richmond, Va., on June 9, after it was pulled down by protesters. (Instagram/@Videogunsvia Reuters)
The statue of Christopher Columbus in a lake in Richmond, Va., on June 9, after it was pulled down by protesters. (Instagram/@Videogunsvia Reuters)

On June 9, a  statue of Christopher Columbus was torn down in Byrd Park by protesters as a way to honor indigenous people. It was spray-painted, set on fire and then thrown into nearby Fountain Lake. Three days earlier, demonstrators pulled down the statue of Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham in the city’s Monroe Park. Wickham’s descendants had asked for the statue to be removed in 2017, saying it was “long overdue.”

At least one other statue removal is planned in Richmond, but it faces legal hurdles. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on June 4 that the former capital of the Confederacy would remove a massive statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monument Ave. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said he was going to push for the removal of four other Confederate statues along the same thoroughfare. On June 8, a judge issued a 10-day injunction blocking the removal of the Lee statue.

“Governor Northam remains committed to removing this divisive symbol from Virginia’s capital city, and we’re confident in his authority to do so,” press secretary Alena Yarmosky said in an email to the USA Today network.

On the evening of June 10, a statue of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was torn down from its perch on Monument Ave. Police watched as a tow truck took the statue away.

RICHMOND, VA - JUNE 10: A Richmond police officer stand by the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis after it was pulled down off of it's pedestal on Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA on June 10, 2020. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - JUNE 10: A Richmond police officer stand by the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis after it was pulled down off of it's pedestal on Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA on June 10, 2020. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)


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