WASHINGTON (CN) – The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly on Saturday has brought renewed scrutiny to Confederate monuments across the country.
Some contend statues on public grounds honoring generals and other figures of the Confederacy is a celebration of the white supremacist sentiment and segregation of the Old South.
Others, President Donald Trump included, argue that removing the monuments could tear away the country’s “history and culture.”
But as the debate rages, communities and private citizens have taken matters into their own hands.
On Friday afternoon, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer issued a statement calling for the removal of Confederate monuments from his city, including the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park where violence erupted last weekend.
“With the terrorist attack, these monuments were transformed from equestrian statues into lightning rods,” Signer said. “We can, and we must, respond by denying the Nazis and the KKK and the so-called alt-right the twisted totem they seek.”
Signer said he has made the plea for removal, in a way, to honor Heyer and set the tone for what sort of community Charlottesville is.
“For the sake of public safety, public reassurance, to magnify Heather’s voice, and to repudiate the pure evil that visited us here, I am calling today for the removal of these Confederate statues from downtown Charlottesville,” he said.
Early Friday morning, a statue of the U.S. Supreme Court justice who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to African Americans was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House.
The statue of Roger B. Taney was lifted away by a crane at about 2 a.m. It was lowered into a truck and driven away to storage.
The bronze statue was erected in 1872, just outside the original front door of the State House.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said this week that removing the statue of Taney in Annapolis was “the right thing to do.”
The state’s action came 24 hours after Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the removal of four Confederate statues in the city under the cover of night.
And on Monday, protesters in Durham, North Carolina toppled a nearly century-old statue of a Confederate soldier in near the city’s courthouse. After the monument fell, protesters kicked and stomped on it.
Although monuments, plaques and other physical remembrances of the Confederacy and its personalities are primarily located in the Southeast, the reality is a majority of states have at least some.
Two plaques honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee were removed in New York this week, one plaque from a tree near a church and another one nearby after church officials received multiple threats.
Bronx Community College president Thomas Isekenegbe said busts of Lee and his Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, would be removed from the school’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans.
A statute of Jackson was also displaced from its perch in St. Petersburg, Florida this week after city officials said they did not wish to see the monument become a “flash point” for debate.
Lee monuments were also removed in Franklin, Ohio after anti-racism activists announced their plan to protest them this week.
In Los Angeles, an obscure Confederate monument inside the Hollywood Forever Cemetery was removed after multiple requests.
Shortly afterwards, a plaque honoring the Confederacy was removed from Horton Plaza Park in San Diego, California.
Celebrating the move, San Diego City Councilor Christopher Ward tweeted, “Monuments to bigotry have no place in San Diego or anywhere!”
As these monuments have come down, calls for others to be removed have increased.
In Richmond, Virginia, which served as the capitol of the Confederacy, Mayor Levar Stony initially suggested that massive Confederate memorials lining the city’s Monument Avenue stay in place with added historical context.
After two days, Stony reversed course and directed a local commission to remove at least some of the statues.
In Jacksonville, Florida, City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche called for all of Jacksonville’s Confederate monuments to be removed and placed in a museum.
And in Kentucky, the state’s military heritage commission will soon consider a proposal to remove statues from the state capitol in Lexington.
In Tennessee, statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest are also the subject of calls for their removal.
Vandals target monuments
Communities throughout the U.S. also continue to see their citizens take matters into their own hands.
In West Englewood, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, a bust of President Abraham Lincoln was set ablaze early Friday morning.
As police continued to investigate the incident as an act of vandalism, city Alderman Ray Lopez told the Chicago Sun Times that he places blame for the torching of Lincoln’s bust squarely on President Donald Trump’s shoulders.
“When you have a president who, from his point of moral authority as leader of the free world, condones the actions of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, people who believe in a segregated society, when he refuses to refute what their actions are, you embolden people to continue,” Lopez told the newspaper.
In Arizona, a plaque venerating Jefferson Davis on a state highway west of Phoenix was tarred and feathered on Friday. Additionally, a monument honoring Confederate soldiers at the state capitol was vandalized.
In Tampa, Florida, a Confederate memorial was splashed with red paint. Local police reported that derogatory comments were also written around the memorial.
At Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, a statue of Lee standing in a campus chapel was defaced by someone who methodically chipped away at its face.
Officials at the university said they are reviewing surveillance footage in an attempt to determine who was behind the vandalism.
In a statement, Duke President Vincent Price condemned the damage and urged students and faculty not to “take matters into their own hands” or vandalize a house of worship.
In Philadelphia – where thousands marched against white supremacy on Wednesday night — spray painted words of “Black Power” adorn the statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo.
In Loudon County, Virginia, a statue of a Confederate soldiers outside its courthouse was also covered with graffiti this week. It has since been cleaned, officials said.