Baltimore removes Confederate monuments after deadly Charlottesville protest

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh comments on the city's decision to remove four Confederate monuments overnight.
The statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville on Aug 13, 2017.
The statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville on Aug 13, 2017.PHOTO: THE NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Statues dedicated to Confederate heroes were swiftly removed across Baltimore in the small hours of Wednesday (Aug 16) morning, just days after violence broke out over the removal of a similar monument in neighbouring Virginia.  

Beginning soon after midnight on Wednesday, a crew, which included a large crane and a contingent of police officers, began making rounds of the city’s parks and public squares, tearing the monuments from their pedestals and carting them out of town.  

Small crowds gathered at each of the monuments and the mood was “celebratory,” said Baynard Woods, the editor at large of The Baltimore City Paper, who documented the removals on Twitter.

“The police are being cheerful and encouraging people to take photos and selfies,” Woods said in an interview.  

The statues were taken down by order of Mayor Catherine Pugh, after the City Council voted on Monday for their removal. The city had been studying the issue since 2015, when a mass shooting by a white supremacist at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, prompted a renewed debate across the South over removing Confederate monuments and battle flags from public spaces.  

Police confirmed the removal.  By 3:30 a.m., three of the city’s four monuments had been removed. They included the Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument, a double equestrian statue of the Confederate generals erected in 1948; the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, erected in 1903; and the Roger B. Taney Monument, erected in 1887.

Taney was a Supreme Court chief justice and Maryland native who wrote the landmark 1857 decision in the Dred Scott case, ruling that even free blacks had no claim to citizenship in the United States.

Although Taney was never part of the Confederacy, the court’s decision was celebrated by supporters of slavery.  

The fourth statue, the Confederate Women’s Monument, was dedicated in 1917. Pictures showed that it too had been taken down early Wednesday.  

One Twitter user, James MacArthur, live-streamed the removal of the Lee and Jackson monument as it was unceremoniously torn from its pedestal and strapped to a flatbed truck.  

Residents were seen celebrating on the pedestal, on which someone had spray-painted “Black Lives Matter.”