A Confederate monument that helped spark a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., has been hoisted off its stone pedestal. Work to remove the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee began early Saturday morning. Crews were also expected to take down a second Confederate monument for Lt. Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Spectators by the dozens lined the blocks surrounding the park, and a cheer went up as Lee's statue lifted off the pedestal, reports the AP. There was a visible police presence, with streets blocked off to vehicular traffic by fencing and heavy trucks. Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker gave a speech in front of reporters and observers as the crane neared the monument. "Taking down this statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville ... and America, grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain," Walker said.
The removal of the statue follows years of contention, community anguish, and litigation. A long legal fight, coupled with changes in a state law that protected war memorials, had held up the removal for years. Saturday’s removal of Lee's and Jackson's statues will come nearly four years after violence erupted at the infamous "Unite the Right" rally. Heather Heyer, a peaceful counterprotester, died in the violence. Only the statues, not their stone pedestals, will be removed Saturday. They will be taken down and stored in a secure location until the City Council makes a final decision about what should be done with them. "This is well overdue,” says Zyahna Bryant, a Black student at the University of Virginia who started a petition in 2016, while she was still in high school, to have the Lee statue removed. "No platform for white supremacy. No platform for racism. No platform for hate."
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