US cities step up removal of Confederate statues

Charlottesville: Undeterred by violence over the planned removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, municipal leaders in cities across the United States said this week they would step up efforts to pull such monuments from public spaces.
The mayors of Baltimore and Lexington, Kentucky, said on Monday they would push ahead with plans to remove statues as a national debate flared anew over whether monuments to the Confederacy are symbols of hate or heritage.
A rally by white nationalists protesting plans to remove a statue of General Robert E Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army in the US Civil War, sparked clashes with anti-racism demonstrators on Saturday.
A woman was killed and 19 people were injured when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Officials in Memphis, Tennessee, and Jacksonville, Florida, announced new initiatives on Monday aimed at taking down Confederate monuments. And Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, urged lawmakers to rid the state’s Capitol of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and early member of the Ku Klux Klan.
“This is a time to stand up and speak out,” Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said in an interview on Monday. He brought forward the announcement of his city’s efforts after the Charlottesville violence.
Saturday’s clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, in which two police officers were also killed when their helicopter crashed, appeared to have accelerated the push to remove memorials, flags and other reminders of the Confederate cause.
Some opponents took matters into their own hands. Demonstrators stormed the site of a Confederate monument outside a courthouse in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday and toppled the bronze statue from its base.
Local television news footage showed protesters taking turns stomping and kicking the fallen statue as others cheered.
Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews said in a statement on Tuesday that his office would seek vandalism charges against those involved.
The drive by civil rights groups and others to do away with Confederate monuments gained momentum after an avowed white supremacist murdered nine African-Americans at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015. The shooting rampage ultimately led to the removal of a Confederate flag from the statehouse in Columbia. — Reuters