Charlottesville removes statues of Confederate generals, Sacagawea

The statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were removed by 10 a.m.

July 10, 2021, 5:08 PM

Two bronze Confederate statues at the center of yearslong debate in Charlottesville, Virginia, were removed Saturday morning.

The day kicked off with the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Market Street Park around 8 a.m. as onlookers cheered. About two hours later, the statue of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was removed from Court Square Park.

PHOTO: Workers remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Market Street Park in Charlottesville, Va., July 10, 2021.
Workers remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Market Street Park in Charlottesville, Va., July 10, 2021. The statue was at the center of a white nationalist rally in 2017.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
PHOTO: Tanya and Evance Chanda from Mechanicsville look on as a statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is removed after years of a legal battle over the contentious monument, in Charlottesville, Va., July 10, 2021.
Tanya and Evance Chanda from Mechanicsville look on as a statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is removed after years of a legal battle over the contentious monument, in Charlottesville, Va., July 10, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

The removal comes more than five years after the first effort to remove the Lee statue. A year later, the monument became a gathering point for white supremacists who decried the proposal at the "Unite the Right" rally in August 2017, which led to rioting and left one woman dead.

PHOTO: Workers prepare to remove a statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson after years of a legal battle over the contentious monument, in Charlottesville, Va, the U.S, July 10, 2021.
Workers prepare to remove a statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson after years of a legal battle over the contentious monument, in Charlottesville, Va, the U.S, July 10, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker shared a speech before the removal, praising the move.

“Taking down this statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America, grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain,” she said.

White House spokesperson Emilie Simons tweeted that President Joe Biden also agreed with the removal of the statues.

"There is a difference between reminders and remembrances of history," she wrote. "The President believes that monuments to Confederate leaders belong in museums, not in public places, and welcomes the removal of the statues today."

Only the statues themselves were removed Saturday; the stone bases will be left in place temporarily and removed at a later date.

PHOTO: The statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea is removed from Charlottesville, Virginia on July 10, 2021.
The statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea is removed from Charlottesville, Virginia on July 10, 2021.
Ryan M. Kelly/AFP via Getty Images

The city also removed a statue depicting Sacagawea with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The statue was criticized for showing Lewis and Clark standing proudly while Sacagawea cowered behind them. The city council voted 5-0 to remove the statue on Saturday, saying the speed with which the Confederate statues were removed opened the possibility for the Lewis and Clark statue to also be taken down.

The council met with Native American delegations in November 2019, which asked for the statue to be removed.

PHOTO: A statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is seen at Justice Park, April 1, 2021, in Charlottesville, Va.
A statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is seen at Justice Park, April 1, 2021, in Charlottesville, Va.
Eze Amos/Getty Images
PHOTO: People hug, while a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is removed in Charlottesville, Va., July 10, 2021.
People hug, while a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is removed in Charlottesville, Va., July 10, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Designated public viewing areas for the removal of the Confederate statues were set up in Market Street Park and Court Square Park, where the statues are located, officials said in a news release.

PHOTO: A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is seen in Market Street Park, April 1, 2021, in Charlottesville, Va.
A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is seen in Market Street Park, April 1, 2021, in Charlottesville, Va.
Eze Amos/Getty Images

Preparations commenced Friday around Market Street Park with officials setting up protective fencing and posting notices in the area.

The removal comes following a resolution passed by the Charlottesville City Council on June 7, which authorized the city manager to remove the statues for placement in storage.

PHOTO: A flatbed truck carries a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the Market Street Park in Charlottesville, Va., July 10, 2021.
A flatbed truck carries a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the Market Street Park in Charlottesville, Va., July 10, 2021. Initial plans to remove the statue four years ago sparked the infamous "Unite the Right" rally where 32 year old Heather Heyer was killed.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

Lawsuits by the statues' supporters were filed and halted the removals since the original city council vote in 2017 to remove them. However, in April the Virginia Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that contended state law protected the monuments.

The city council has the sole authority to determine the final disposition of the statues, officials said in the news release.

PHOTO: Workers remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va., July 10, 2021.
Workers remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, after years of a legal battle over the contentious monument, in Charlottesville, Va., July 10, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Both statues will be stored in a secure location on city property until a final decision on their fate is made.

The city has solicited museums, government branches and the military to see if they have interest in the statues. So far, the Charlottesville city manager has received 10 responses -- six from out of state and four from in state and they're all under review.

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