While Confederate statues come down, other symbols targeted
Raleigh, N.C. – Spectators in North Carolina’s capital cheered Sunday morning as work crews finished the job started by protesters Friday night and removed a Confederate statue from the top of a 75-foot monument.
Across the country, an initially peaceful protest in Portland, Oregon, against racial injustice turned violent early Sunday: Baton-wielding police used flash-bang grenades to disperse demonstrators throwing bottles, cans and rocks at sheriff’s deputies near downtown’s Justice Center.
News outlets reported that work crews acting on the order of Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper removed the statue Sunday morning and began taking down the obelisk on which it stood.
Sunday’s work follows the removal of two other Confederate statues on the state Capitol grounds in Raleigh on Saturday.
Cooper ordered the statues removed after protesters toppled two other Confederate statues Friday night, stringing one up by the neck and hanging it from a light pole.
“Monuments to white supremacy don’t belong in places of allegiance, and it’s past time that these painful memorials be moved in a legal, safe way,” Cooper said in a press release Saturday.
A 2015 law bars removal of the statues without approval of a state historical commission, but Cooper said he’s acting under a public-safety exception to the law out of concern for the danger presented when protesters seek to topple the statues themselves.
Cooper has advocated the statues’ removal for years. Republicans, though, blamed him for not ordering police to take a tougher stand Friday night to protect the memorials.
In Wilmington, N.C., Democratic Mayor Bill Saffo imposed a curfew in a narrow area surrounding two Confederate monuments to try to thwart any vandalism or destruction. The curfew from 7:30 p.m. through 7 a.m. began Saturday night and lasts five nights.
In Baltimore, a statue and memorial to George Washington in a city park were vandalized with red paint. The Baltimore Sun reports that the memorial in Druid Hill Park in northwest Baltimore also had the words “Destroy Racists” and the initials for the Black Lives Matter movement written on the base.
Police said Sunday morning that they had not received any complaints about the vandalism.
Baltimore removed several statues and memorials linked to the Confederacy in 2017.
In St. Augustine, Florida, the nation’s oldest city, a debate over history is looming over a monument, located in the city’s historic central plaza, memorializing dozens of the city’s sons who died fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The Rev. Ron Rawls, a pastor at St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, calls the monument disrespectful and wants it removed. The City Commission is expected to decide whether to heed that call on Monday.
As statues and memorials to the Confederacy have been targeted across the South, prompted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protesters have also at times targeted Founding Fathers who were slaveholders, including Washington.
In New York, the American Museum of Natural History will remove a prominent statue of Theodore Roosevelt from its entrance after years of objections that it symbolizes colonial expansion and racial discrimination, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday.
The bronze statue that has stood at the museum’s Central Park West entrance since 1940 depicts Roosevelt on horseback with a Native American man and an African man standing next to the horse.
“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” de Blasio said in a written statement. “The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”
In California, protesters over the weekend targeted statues and busts of former President Ulysses Grant, who commanded the Union Army that defeated the Confederacy; Francis Scott Key, who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner;” and Spanish missionary Junipero Serra, who is credited with bringing Roman Catholicism to the western United States. Grant and Key were both slave owners at points in their lives.
In another case in California, symbols of the Black Lives Matter movement have been targeted in recent weeks with vandalism. Three men, including employees of a sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office, were arrested in connection with the vandalism of a Black Lives Matter sign.
Portland police and Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies arrested several people after a group of protesters pulled down a fence cordoning off the center, tossed objects including fireworks at officers and ignored repeated warnings to disperse, police said in a statement. It said some people shined lasers into the eyes of deputies.
Seattle police on Sunday pursued their investigation into a weekend shooting in the city’s protest zone that killed a 19-year-old man and critically injured another person. No arrests had been made.