Confederate monuments of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, which were at the focus of violent riots in Charlottesville, Va., were removed from municipal parks on Saturday.
The bronze statues at the center of a “Unite the Right” rally on Aug. 12, 2017, that left Heather Heyer, 32, dead after James Fields drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, were removed from public property as reporters watched and observers cheered.
Cheers erupted when the Lee monument was removed from its pedestal in Market Street Park just after 8 a.m., loaded onto a big flatbed, and transported away from the park a half hour later.
Crews subsequently repeated the process with the Jackson statue at Court Square Park, and the audience cheered when it was lifted off its pedestal soon before 10 a.m.
“(Removing the statues) is one step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America grapple with its sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gains,” Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said immediately before the Lee statue was destroyed, according to CNN.
“During the past month, the city has solicited for expressions of interest from any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield interested in acquiring the statues, or either of them, for relocation and placement,” the city said in a statement Friday.
After a three-year legal fight, the Charlottesville City Council decided on June 7 to demolish the statues.
The white nationalist protest that murdered Heyer and wounded 19 others took place after the council originally agreed to remove the monuments in February 2017.
A circuit judge ruled shortly after the rally that state law barred the statutes’ removal, according to court documents.
Supreme Court of Virginia, however, overturned that decision in April 2021, ruling that the state law, which was enacted in 1997, “had no retroactive applicability.”