The mayor of Richmond, Va., ordered the removal of a statue of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson on Wednesday, and city authorities said additional confederate monuments will be removed in the near future.
Richmond mayor Levar Stoney’s initiative comes amid massive nationwide demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African-American man killed during arrest by Minneapolis police officers. Protesters have toppled various statues of historical figures including Christopher Columbus, however monuments to the Confederacy have come under particular scrutiny because of the history of slavery in southern states that chose to secede from the Union.
“The Berlin Wall fell, but also the system fell with it,” Stoney, a Democrat, told a crowd assembled to watch city workers remove the Jackson statue. “Now for us, as elected leaders, alongside our community, it’s our job to rip out the systemic racism that is found in everything we do — from government, to health care, to the criminal justice system.”
Stoney used emergency powers to order the statue’s removal after the City Council delayed a vote on removing four Confederate monuments in Richmond.
Lamont Bagby, a Democrat representing Richmond in the Virginia General Assembly, applauded Stoney’s decision.
“The tearing down of statues by activists puts their health and safety at great risk, and I support his decision to mitigate those risks,” Bagby, who is chairman of the state’s General Black Caucus, said in a statement. Virginia Republican Party chairman Jack Wilson countered that “Richmond is no longer run by the rule of law — it has devolved into anarchy,” and accused city authorities of “caving to the mob.”
In addition to monuments, momentum from the George Floyd demonstrations has caused a reckoning over Confederate symbols, including its flag. The Mississippi state government has approved the removal of the emblem of the Confederacy from its state flag, while NASCAR has banned spectators from waving the Confederate flag at races.
The debate is playing out in the federal government as well, with a push to rename military bases, including Fort Bragg, that are named after Confederate figures. Senators Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Thom Tillis (R., N.C.) have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would create a commission to weigh renaming those bases.