'Symbols of subjugation': University of Texas removes Confederate monuments
In the early hours of Monday, crews at the University of Texas began to haul away monuments of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and other prominent figures who fought for the South during the American Civil War. The university’s president, Greg Fenves, gave the order for their immediate removal late Sunday night.
“Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry,” Fenves said.
The timing of the removal “was designed to ensure public safety and provide minimal disruption to campus,” according to university spokesperson Gary Susswein. “We’ve seen what happened elsewhere.”
On Saturday, Duke University in North Carolina removed a Robert E. Lee’s statue from the entrance of its chapel, after it was vandalized on Wednesday.
As a Duke University alum, I'm happy that Duke removed the Robert E. Lee statue that stood in front of Duke Chapel. https://t.co/5kSqnLooS0— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) August 19, 2017
Duke’s president said the move was not only a safety measure but was also meant to express the “abiding values” of the school.
The violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12 started yet another push to remove Confederate monuments from public squares.
White nationalists gathered in Charlottesville to protest the planned relocation of a Robert E. Lee monument, and clashed with a group of counter-protesters. Later in the day, a car reportedly driven by one of the white nationalists crashed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 other people.
“My concern is for the safety & security of our people. We moved as quickly as we could." - Mayor Catherine Pugh https://t.co/8t8rf7KbNx— RT America (@RT_America) August 16, 2017
Following the incident, a number of cities removed Confederate statues, including Baltimore, Maryland, which removed four monuments last Tuesday, also under the cover of night.
The mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, has ordered a Confederate monument to be covered and hidden from public view, as a law passed in May forbids the removal of statues in the state. The Alabama attorney general has sued the mayor over the order.
In other places, activists took the matter in their own hands. In Durham, North Carolina, protesters tore down and vandalized a memorial to Confederate soldiers last week.
“The charges are outrageous, the charges are unnecessary” - defendant https://t.co/wSIVlMPzo0— RT America (@RT_America) August 17, 2017
Scores of other monuments across the country had been vandalized throughout the week, most recently a Confederate monument at a West Palm Beach cemetery.
Red spray paint containing expletives and anti-fascist remarks covered the carved Confederate flag, South Florida News 11 reported.
JUST IN: Confederate monument at West Palm Beach, Florida cemetery vandalized - WPTV pic.twitter.com/5lj23tWXWi— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) August 20, 2017
While many in the US see the Confederate monuments as symbols of racism and support for slavery, others view them as part of history.
“I hate the erasure of history and my people’s history ... people of European descent who built this country,” University of Houston student Mike Peterson told AP. “It burns me to my core.”
President Trump defended the monuments last week, when he called the removals “foolish.”
...can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
The president pointed out that America’s first president, George Washington, and one of its founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves.