The Charlottesville, Va., City Council abruptly voted to remove a statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea on Saturday, the same day statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were removed from the city.
The council voted unanimously for the statue’s removal at an emergency session at noon, and has allocated about $1 million for the removal of all three statues. The statue of the explorers had stood at Charlottesville’s West Main Street since 1919.
“The project follows the successful removals of the statues of two Confederate Generals this morning,” City Spokesperson Brian Wheeler said in emailed comments to reporters. “The completion of that work ahead of schedule has allowed the removal of the third statue, one which City Council has previously expressed a desire to have removed after a work session with Native American delegations in November 2019.”
Lewis was born in Albemarle County, where Charlottesville is located. Lewis and Clark were charged by former president Thomas Jefferson with exploring the land west of the Mississippi River, and were joined by Sacagawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman, as a guide and interpreter.
Critics had complained that the statue in question depicted Sacagawea crouching behind the two men, though others argued this pose was meant to show her as a tracker.
Plans to remove the statue of Lee were proposed in 2016, and in 2017 white supremacists congregated at a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal. Extremist groups clashed with demonstrators at the rally, and one white nationalist rammed his car into a group of protesters, killing one and injuring dozens.