Duke University removed a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee early Saturday, days after it was vandalized amid a national debate about monuments to the Confederacy, the AP reports. The university said it removed the statue early Saturday morning from Duke Chapel where it stood among 10 historical figures. Officials discovered early Thursday that the statue's face had been damaged by vandalism. University president Vincent Price said he consulted with faculty, staff, students, and alumni about the decision to remove the statue. "I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university," Price said.
Durham, home to North Carolina's Duke University, has been a focal point in the debate over Confederate statues after protesters tore down a bronze Confederate soldier in front of a government building downtown. Hundreds marched Friday through downtown Durham in a largely peaceful demonstration against racism, leading to a rally at the site where the bronze statue was toppled. Other monuments around the state have been vandalized since the Charlottesville protest. There have also been calls to take down a Confederate soldier statue from the campus of the University of North Carolina. A 2015 state law restricts the removal of Confederate monuments, but Duke is a private university and outside the scope of that law.