Politics

Protesters topple Jefferson Davis statue in Virginia capital

There were no immediate reports of any arrests.

The toppling came on the same day NASCAR banned Confederate flags — a common site for decades in a sport steeped in Southern tradition — at its stock car races.

In the weeks since Floyd’s death under a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee set off protests and sporadic violence across the U.S., many Confederate symbols and monuments have been damaged or brought down, some toppled by demonstrators and others removed by local authorities.

The movement has extended around the world, with protesters decrying monuments to slave traders, imperialists and explorers, including Christopher Columbus, Cecil Rhodes and Belgium’s King Leopold II.

The Davis monument was a few blocks away from a massive equestrian statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that the state of Virginia is trying to take down. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam last week ordered its removal, but a judge on Monday blocked such action for at least 10 days.

The spokesman for the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, B. Frank Earnest, condemned the toppling of “public works of art” and likened losing the Confederate statues to losing a family member.

“The men who served under Robert E. Lee were my great-grandfathers or their brothers and their cousins. So it is my family,” he said. “What if a crowd of any other group went and found the symbols of someone they didn’t like and decided to tear them down? Everybody would be appalled. But I don’t know why it’s acceptable, why people who are descended from the Confederate Army and the Confederate soldiers, it’s accepted in this country that you can do anything to us you want.”

The toppling of the Davis statue reflected protesters’ impatience with political leaders. A commission of historians and government leaders had recommended in 2018 taking down the monument, and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney recently announced that he would introduce an ordinance to remove it and statues of several other Confederates.

Also Wednesday night, protesters in Portsmouth, Virginia, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) away, beheaded and then pulled down four statues that were part of a Confederate monument as a brass band played in the streets and demonstrators danced. The crowd was frustrated by the Portsmouth City Council’s decision to put off moving the monument.

A protester in his 30s was hit in the head and knocked unconscious as the monument fell, Portsmouth NAACP Vice President Louie Gibbs said. The man was taken to a hospital. His condition was not immediately disclosed.

On Tuesday, protesters in Richmond tore down a statue of Columbus, set it on fire and pitched it into a lake.

Supporters of Confederate monuments have argued that they are important reminders of history, while opponents contend they glorify those who led a rebellion to preserve slavery.

The Davis monument and many others across the South were erected decades after the Civil War, during the Jim Crow era, in which states clamped down on black people, and during the Lost Cause movement, in which historians and others sought to recast the South’s rebellion as a noble undertaking, fought to defend not slavery but states’ rights.

Source: politico.com
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