Charlottesville takes down Robert E Lee statue that sparked rally

6

A statue of an American Confederate general at the centre of a violent rally in Charlottesville nearly four years ago has been taken down.

Onlookers cheered as the statue of General Robert E Lee was put onto a truck and driven away for storage.

Plans to remove the statue prompted a white nationalist rally in August 2017.

An anti-racism protester, Heather Heyer, was murdered by a neo-Nazi who drove into her at a counter-protest.

Her killer was later sentenced to life in prison.

Another statue of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is also being removed.

Memorials to the pro-slavery Confederacy – the southern states which revolted against the federal government during the US Civil War – have long stirred controversy.

Hundreds of statues of Lee, Jackson and other famous Confederate figures exist throughout the US.

Some see them as markers of US history and southern culture. But to others, they serve as an offensive reminder of America’s history of slavery and racial oppression.

The “Unite the Right” march held in Charlottesville, Virginia, was one of the largest such gatherings in decades, and drew hundreds of neo-Nazis, white nationalist and Ku Klux Klan members.

Dozens were injured in the violence that erupted between the marchers and counter-protesters.

Charlottesville had welcomed viewers to watch the statues come down early on Saturday morning.

As a crane neared the monument, Charlottesville’s mayor Nikuyah Walker said its removal was an important signal to the whole country.

“Taking down this statue is one small 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,” she said.

Take ‘Em Down CVille, a group which has campaigned for the statues’ removal, applauded news of the removal.

“No one believes that removing the statues will end white supremacy but this is an important step – and one long past due,” it said.

City officials say the statues will be held in a secure location until the council decides where to relocate them.

Local officials have said they plan to redesign the park spaces where the statues are located “in a way that promotes healing and that tells a more complete history of Charlottesville”.