By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Maryland authorities took down a statue on Friday of a 19th century chief justice who wrote an infamous pro-slavery decision, the latest example of action across the United States over memorials that have triggered racially charged protests.
Meanwhile, the mother of a woman killed when a man crashed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in the Virginia city of Charlottesville on Saturday said that after hearing Donald Trump’s latest comments, she did not want to talk to the president.
In what has become the biggest domestic crisis of his presidency, Trump has been strongly criticized, including by many fellow Republicans, for blaming the Charlottesville violence not only on the rally organizers, but also the anti-racism activists who opposed them.
Crews in Maryland’s state capital, Annapolis, removed the 145-year-old bronze statue of Roger Taney from its base outside State House overnight using a crane, local media showed.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, had called on Wednesday for the monument to be taken down immediately. Taney’s 1857 ruling, known as the Dred Scott decision, reaffirmed slavery and said black people could not be U.S. citizens.
Opponents of monuments to the Confederate states, which fought in the U.S. Civil War for the preservation of slavery, view them as a festering symbol of racism. Supporters say they honor American history, and some of the monuments have become rallying points for white nationalists.
In North Carolina, Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews said his officers were preparing for a possible march by white nationalists in front of a Durham city courthouse on Friday, the News & Observer newspaper reported. Protesters tore down a Confederate statue in the city earlier this week.
Several hundred anti-racist demonstrators took to the streets as a result, some carrying a banner reading “We will not be intimidated.” Some downtown businesses closed early.
“Tensions are high right now,” said Taylor Tate, an employee of Scratch Bakery, which shut its doors. “We would rather make sure everyone can get out of the way if anything does happen.”
Efforts to remove many such statues around the country have been stepped up since the Charlottesville rally, called by white nationalists to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
‘I’M NOT FORGIVING HIM’
Trump on Thursday decried the removal of Confederate monuments, drawing stinging rebukes from fellow Republicans in a controversy that has inflamed racial tensions nationwide.
The mother of Heather Heyer, the woman killed in Charlottesville, said in a television interview on Friday that after Trump’s comments, “I’m not talking to the president now.”
“You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m not forgiving him for that,” Susan Bro told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
She added she would tell Trump: “Think before you speak.”
“I’ve had death threats already … because of what I’m doing right this second – I’m talking,” Bro told MSNBC separately on Thursday.
There are more than 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces across the United States, with 700 of those being monuments and statues, the Southern Poverty Law Center says.
The large majority of these were erected long after the Civil War ended in 1865, according to the center, with many going up early in the 20th century amid a backlash among segregationists against the civil rights movement.
More than half a dozen have been taken down since Saturday.
In Lexington, Kentucky, government leaders voted on Thursday in favor of moving two Confederate statues from their plinths outside a former courthouse that is being turned into a visitor center, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said.
(Additional reporting by Barry Yeoman in Durham, Gina Cherelus in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Frances Kerry)