Kentucky city removes two Confederate statues

Kentucky city removes two Confederate statues

(Reuters) – Statues of two leaders of the Confederacy will be moved from public places in Lexington, Kentucky, to a cemetery where the men they represent are buried, an action that began quietly on Tuesday in the midst of a national debate about memorials to those who fought for the South in the U.S. Civil War.

The city council in August voted to remove the statues of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge, a U.S. vice president and Confederate secretary of war, the Lexington Herald Leader reported, showing video of the removal work that began without advance notice.

The Kentucky vote came soon after a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white nationalists angered at the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee clashed with counter-protesters.

The Kentucky statues, which have been in the city for about 130 years, will be taken to a private storage facility as the city works on an arrangement with the Lexington Cemetery about placing them there, it said.

The Lexington mayor’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Breckinridge and Morgan are buried at the cemetery, and private donors are providing funds to pay for the upkeep and security of the statues there, the newspaper reported.

Opponents of Confederate memorials view them as tributes to the South’s slave-holding past, while supporters argue that they represent an important part of history.

Kentucky was a slave-holding state at the time of the Civil War but it did not join the Confederacy.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz)

Charlottesville OKs removal of second Confederate statue

Police officers stand around a statue of Confederate general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson during a Black Lives Matter rally in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Marcus Constantino

By Peter Szekely

(Reuters) – Charlottesville, Virginia, has decided to remove another Confederate general’s statue from a park, a city spokeswoman said on Wednesday, just weeks after a woman died during protests over a decision to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee.

Council members on Tuesday night unanimously ordered a statue of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to be removed from a park in the city’s historic downtown district “as soon as possible,” spokeswoman Miriam Dickler said by phone.

The vote will have no immediate effect. A court has blocked the removal of the Lee statue from another park pending the outcome of a legal challenge that will likely now include the Jackson statue, Dickler said.

An August rally organized by white nationalists to protest the planned removal of the Lee statue turned deadly, when counter-protester Heather Heyer, 32, was killed by a car driven into a crowd.

The violence stemmed from a heated national debate about whether Confederate symbols of the U.S. Civil War represent heritage or hate. In the wake of the rally, other cities have acted to taken down monuments to the Confederacy.

The Dallas City Council voted on Wednesday to remove a statute of Lee from a city park. In Washington, D.C., the National Cathedral’s governing body said it had decided to immediately remove two stained glass windows honoring Lee and Jackson.

Those defending Charlottesville’s Lee statue in court argue that only the state can authorize its removal because it is covered by a Virginia war memorial statute. The city says it is city property and “not actually a war memorial as spelled out in code,” Dickler said.

The resolution passed by the city council on Tuesday calls for the Jackson statue to be removed “in a manner that preserves the integrity of the sculpture” and to be sold or transferred to an entity that preferably would display it in an educational, historic or artistic context.

Both Confederate statues are shrouded in black fabric following a council vote to reflect the city’s mourning after the death of the counter-protester last month.

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer has urged the Virginia legislature to go into special session to let localities decide the fate of the statues.

But Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said that would be redundant because the statue’s fate is already subject to litigation, though he added he hoped the court will rule in the city’s favor.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio)

Florida board votes to scrub Confederate general’s name from school

FILE PHOTO: The statue of Robert E. Lee is seen in Dallas, Texas, U.S. August 19, 2017. REUTERS/Rex Curry/File Photo

By Jim Forsyth

(Reuters) – A city commission in southern Florida on Wednesday voted to remove the names of three Confederate generals from city streets, in response to a community campaign begun months before the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The officials voted 5-1 to drop the names of Forrest, Hood and Lee streets in Hollywood, Florida, located about 20 miles (32 km) north of Miami, the Miami Herald newspaper said.

“This is about what the meaning of community is,” it quoted Mayor Josh Levy as saying. “We don’t endorse hate. We don’t endorse symbols of hate. What hurts you, hurts me. It should hurt all of us.”

Local and state leaders across the country have taken similar action after an Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville by white nationalists opposed to plans to move a Lee statue turned deadly when a man crashed a car into counter-protesters, killing a woman.

Dozens of citizens and politicians spoke at a marathon city commission meeting in Hollywood, with most backing the change, including Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

Those opposed to the name change said they not think of Confederate generals when they drove on the streets, named for Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate army and fellow Confederate generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Bell Hood.

Although the city’s review of street names began before the Charlottesville clashes they have imbued it with a fresh significance.

The action came the night after a San Antonio school board voted to change the name of its Robert E. Lee High School, citing the violence in Charlottesville as the impetus.

Tuesday night’s unanimous action was taken by the same board that opted two years ago not to change the 59-year-old high school’s name. Several board members said the nation’s attitude toward symbols of the pro-slavery Confederacy had shifted.

On Wednesday, the chancellor of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill declined a request from a white nationalist group to rent campus space for white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak.

“Our basis for this decision is the safety and security of the campus community,” UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement.

Strong sentiment on the subject is highlighted by comments from a Georgia state lawmaker this week, who said people calling for the removal of Confederate monuments could “go missing” in a swamp if they visited the district he represented.

Representative Jason Spencer, who is white, posted the comment during a Facebook exchange with former state Representative LaDawn Jones, who is black, a screen grab on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s website showed.

The comment has been deleted from Spencer’s Facebook page.

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney and Clarence Fernandez)

Georgia unveils statue of civil rights leader King on capitol grounds

Members of Martin Luther King Jr.'s family and Georgia elected leaders stand in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue unveiled in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., August 28, 2017. REUTERS/David Beasley

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Georgia on Monday unveiled a statue of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on the same capitol grounds in Atlanta where statues of segregationists remain.

The new installation comes amid an intensified debate in the United States over Confederate symbols after a woman was killed during an Aug. 12 protest by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, objecting to the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The bronze King statue should provide a sense of hope, his daughter Bernice King told the several hundred people who attended the unveiling ceremony in the state that was part of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War.

The event on Monday was timed to coincide with the 54th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech calling for racial justice and equality.

The civil rights leader said it was his dream that the sons of former slaves and former slave owners would one day sit down together in brotherhood.

“Well, the sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners sat down in this state capitol and made the decision to erect the Martin Luther King Jr. monument,” Bernice King said.

King, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was assassinated in 1968, was born a few blocks from the Georgia capitol. Although his portrait is on display inside the building, there had been no monuments to him on the Capitol grounds. The statue faces his birthplace.

The monument to King joins existing statues on capitol grounds of John B. Gordon, a Confederate military general; Joseph Brown, the state’s governor during the Civil War; and past Governor Eugene Talmadge, a staunch segregationist.

Georgia state officials in 2014 announced plans for the King statue a few months after they quietly relocated off capitol grounds a statue of Thomas Watson, a U.S. senator who died in 1922. Watson espoused bigoted attitudes towards African Americans, Catholics, and Jews, according to scholars.

“This day took much too long to get here,” said David Ralston, the Republican speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. “From those days we can grow and learn.”

(Reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta; Editing by Bernie Woodall, Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker)

U.S. towns that want to shed Confederate symbols hit bureaucratic roadblocks

U.S. towns that want to shed Confederate symbols hit bureaucratic roadblocks

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – As early as November, the stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway that runs through Alexandria, Virginia, will boast a new title after the city council voted to erase the name of the Confederacy’s president.

But the city’s neighbors to the north in Arlington are powerless to initiate a similar change, even though local officials would like to follow Alexandria’s example.

The difference lies in a simple distinction: Unlike Alexandria, Arlington is technically a county, not a city, and under Virginia law cannot alter major road names without permission from the state legislature.

As officials across the United States increasingly consider excising Confederate names from streets, schools and monuments following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, many are confronting bureaucratic and legal obstacles.

(GRAPHIC: Monumental Change –

An Aug. 12 rally organized by white nationalists to protest against plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park devolved into armed clashes on the streets of the college town, and one woman was killed when a man plowed a car into anti-fascist counterprotesters.

The violence has escalated an ongoing debate over Confederate symbols. Some people view them as hateful and racist, while others say they represent their Southern heritage and are tributes to fallen soldiers.

In some cases, the local laws impose a series of steps. In Austin, a liberal bastion in the heart of Republican Texas, the city council recently began the process of renaming Robert E. Lee Road and Jeff Davis Avenue.

Austin’s ordinances call for every person who owns property along either street to be notified, and if anyone objects, the council must hold a public hearing on the proposed change. Meanwhile, the city’s traffic engineer, fire department and police department must review the proposal along with the local gas company and the U.S. Postal Service, among other agencies.

“It’s a process that is fairly involved,” said Austin Councilwoman Ann Kitchen, whose district includes Robert E. Lee Road.


The Dallas Independent School District will take up whether to rename several schools named for Confederate generals at a Sept. 14 meeting.

In a 1,300-word provision, the board’s own policies lay out a lengthy procedure for naming or renaming a facility: The proposal has to come from the school itself and must be backed by at least one member of the parent-teacher association, the administration and a state-mandated “site-based decision-making committee.” The policy also calls for such changes to be considered only after April 1, near the end of the school year.

The process is so complicated that, in light of Charlottesville, the board will likely discuss ways to waive parts of the policy to expedite the renaming, said Dan Micciche, the school board president.

Other locales are finding their authority usurped by a higher power.

In Decatur, Georgia, some residents have demanded the removal of a Confederate monument, but the memorial is actually owned by Dekalb County, rather than the city. State law, meanwhile, specifically prohibits the removal of Confederate memorials.

Georgia is not alone. North Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama – which passed its law earlier this year – bar cities from removing any historical monuments.

Such efforts can also draw lawsuits, which can take months or even years to resolve.

In Arlington, Jay Fisette, the chairman of the county board, issued a statement last week deploring the “domestic terrorism” displayed at Charlottesville and recognizing the desire among some residents to rename Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway, another route that runs through the county.

In a phone interview, Fisette noted that the county already asked legislators to change the name two years ago, with little success, and will do so again this year.

“It is certainly my hope that after the experience of Charlottesville, the legislature will look upon it favorably,” he said.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Cynthia Osterman)

Charlottesville to cover Confederate statues after chaotic meeting

Charlottesville to cover Confederate statues after chaotic meeting

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – City councilors in Charlottesville, Virginia, voted unanimously on Tuesday to cover two statues of Confederate war heroes in black fabric after ejecting spectators from a chaotic council meeting as residents demanded answers over how a recent white nationalist rally turned deadly.

Many activists and local residents crowded into the meeting, which began late Monday and spilled into the wee hours of Tuesday. It was the first council meeting since the Aug. 12 rally, when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters and killed a 32-year-old woman.

Many at the meeting shouted at the councilors and Mayor Mike Signer, forcing them at one point to leave the chamber.

Videos posted on social media showed some in the crowd yelling “shame” and “shut it down” and calling for Signer’s resignation. A photo online showed two people holding a sign that read “Blood On Your Hands” behind the council seats.

When council members returned to the chamber after spectators were removed, they voted to cover the statues of General Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, said a city spokeswoman, Paige Rice.

“Council voted unanimously at their meeting to shroud the statues to reflect the city’s mourning,” Rice said.

The planned removal of a statue of Lee in a downtown Charlottesville park had galvanized white nationalists to rally there on Aug. 12 in protest. Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia.

The rally highlights a persistent debate in the U.S. South over the display of the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the rebel side in the Civil War, which was fought over the issue of slavery.

In the wake of the Charlottesville rally, other cities have acted to remove monuments to the Confederacy.

On Tuesday night, nearly 1,000 people rallied at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill for the removal of “Silent Sam,” a Confederate soldier statue on the campus.

“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! These racist statues got to go!” chanted a crowd that was kept away from the statue by two rings of barricades and police in riot gear.

The protest was largely peaceful, but two people were arrested, said the university’s communications department. No information on the charges levied, or details of the people arrested, were given.

There was no sign of professed white nationalists at the Chapel Hill rally.

In Charlottesville, the council voted to cover the Lee and Jackson statues with black fabric for now because of a pending lawsuit challenging the city’s authority to remove the statue of Lee.

During the council meeting, activists and residents questioned the police response to the Aug. 12 unrest and criticized city leaders for not heeding warnings in advance of the rally, Rice said. She said that three people were removed from the room.

Charlottesville police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The New York Times reported that the three people ejected from the meeting were issued citations for disorderly conduct.

Signer called last week for a special session of Virginia’s legislature to let localities decide the fate of Confederate monuments such as the Lee statue.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said that would be redundant because the statue’s fate is already subject to litigation, though he said he hoped the court will rule in the city’s favor.

The night before the Aug. 12 rally, scores of white supremacists descended on Charlottesville and marched with tiki torches through the campus of the University of Virginia in a display that critics called reminiscent of a Ku Klux Klan rally.

In response to the Charlottesville violence, actor George Clooney and his humanitarian lawyer wife, Amal Clooney, have donated $1 million to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a U.S. non-profit that tracks extremist groups.

Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against a statue of a Confederate solider nicknamed Silent Sam on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S. August 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against a statue of a Confederate solider nicknamed Silent Sam on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S. August 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

(Additional reporting by Corey Risinger in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Leslie Adler and Himani Sarkar)

A majority of Americans want to preserve Confederate monuments: Reuters/Ipsos poll

Workers remove Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue from the south mall of the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Spillman

By Chris Kahn

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A majority of Americans think Confederate monuments should be preserved in public spaces, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, a view that is at odds with efforts in many cities to remove them.

The Aug. 18-21 poll found that 54 percent of adults said Confederate monuments “should remain in all public spaces” while 27 percent said they “should be removed from all public spaces.” Another 19 percent said they “don’t know.”

Responses to the poll were sharply split along racial and party lines, however, with whites and Republicans largely supportive of preservation. Democrats and minorities were more likely to support removal.

Cities across the United States are debating what to do with hundreds of statues, plaques and other monuments to the slave-holding Confederacy. Some monuments already have been removed this year in cities like New Orleans and Baltimore.

The poll also found that the public was almost evenly divided over the deadly “Unite the Right” rally that was called to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The rally was organized by white nationalists and drew members of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, as well as left-leaning counter-protesters. It quickly erupted into violence, and a 32-year-old woman was killed after a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters. The man who police say was driving the car was described by a former teacher as having been “infatuated” with Nazi ideology. There were people among both camps who came carrying sticks and shields.

Trump later blamed “both sides” for the conflict. “You had a group on one side that was bad,” he said. “And you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.”

His comments were met with a chorus of rebukes across the political spectrum, including Republican Party bosses and business leaders. Trump later disbanded two presidential business advisory groups after a growing number of CEO members quit to protest his comments, and all 17 members of Trump’s arts and humanities committee also resigned.

Yet, according to the poll, 31 percent of Americans described the rally as “an even mix” of rioting and intimidation by white supremacists and left-wing counter-protesters, a viewpoint that roughly lines up with Trump’s comments. Another 28 percent saw the white supremacists as the aggressors and 10 percent mostly blamed the left-wing counter-protesters. The remaining 32 percent said “other” or “don’t know.”

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States, gathering responses from 2,149 people, including 874 Democrats and 763 Republicans. It has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2 percentage points for the entire group and 4 percentage points for the Democrats and Republicans.

(Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Texas man charged with trying to blow up Confederate statue

Texas man charged with trying to blow up Confederate statue

By Alex Dobuzinskis and Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – Authorities in Houston charged a 25-year-old man on Monday with trying to blow up a Confederate statue, federal prosecutors said, following demonstrations and fierce debate in the United States about race and the legacy of America’s Civil War.

Word of the arrest of Andrew Schneck came just hours after the University of Texas at Austin said it moved statues tied to the Confederacy at its campus because they had become “symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”

White nationalists rallied earlier this month against proposals to take down a similar statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, and one woman was killed when a man crashed his car into a crowd of anti-racism counterprotesters.

The violence triggered the biggest domestic crisis yet for President Donald Trump, who provoked anger across the political spectrum for not immediately condemning white nationalists and for praising “very fine people” on both sides of the fight.

On Saturday night, a park ranger spotted Schneck kneeling in bushes in front of the General Dowling Monument in Houston’s Hermann Park, Federal prosecutors said in a statement.

In Schneck’s possession were a timer, wires, duct tape and two types of explosive including nitroglycerin, according to the prosecutors who described it as one of the world’s most powerful explosives. The items could have been used to make a viable explosive device, the prosecutors’ statement said.

If convicted of trying to maliciously damage or destroy property receiving federal financial assistance, Schneck faces up to 40 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

“It’s an evolving situation and the investigation is continuing,” Schneck’s attorney, Philip Hilder, said by phone. “So far I have not seen any evidence and it would be premature to comment at this time.”

A growing number of U.S. political leaders have called for the removal of statues honoring the Confederacy. Civil rights activists charge they promote racism while advocates of the statues contend they are a reminder of their heritage.

The city of West Palm Beach near Miami became the latest community on Monday to prepare to remove a Confederate symbol. The monument in a public cemetery belongs to the Daughters of the Confederacy, and it will be stored for the organization after its removal, Mayor Jeri Muoio told reporters.

Among the four statues removed overnight at the University at Austin was one of General Robert E. Lee, who led the pro-slavery Confederacy’s army during the Civil War.

Fenves said the statue of Lee and two others will be placed in the school’s Briscoe Center for American History and made available for scholarly study.

The school’s president, Greg Fenves, said in a statement that the monuments had to go following the “horrific displays of hatred” in Virginia that shocked and saddened the nation.

There are about 700 monuments to the Confederacy in public spaces across the United States, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, with the majority of them erected early in the 20th century amid a backlash among segregationists against the civil rights movement.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Andrea Ricci)

What’s in a name? Virginia school enters Confederate symbols battle

Stonewall Jackson High School is pictured in this still image from video, in Manassas, Virginia, U.S., August 17, 2017. Image taken August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Greg Savoy

By Fatima Bhojani

MANASSAS, Va. (Reuters) – In the northern Virginia county where Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson earned his famous moniker, a battle has begun to remove his name from the local high school where it appears in large white letters on the red brick facade.

Inspired by last weekend’s race-fueled violence in Charlottesville, a local official proposed renaming the school, extending the debate over Confederate monuments to institutions whose names honor the leaders of the pro-slavery Southern states in the U.S. Civil War.

“It’s time to recognize that these schools were named in error,” said Ryan Sawyers, who is chairman of the Prince William County school board and is also running for U.S. Congress next year as a Democrat. “It’s time to right that wrong.”

His proposal on Wednesday set off a firestorm of debate in the picturesque suburban county about 40 miles (65 km) southwest of Washington, D.C., and provided a taste of what likely awaits similar new efforts in states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

“Despicable,” Corey Stewart, the Republican chairman of Prince William’s Board of County Supervisors and a 2018 U.S. Senate candidate, said of the idea of changing the name of Stonewall Jackson High School.

A strong supporter of President Donald Trump, Stewart ran unsuccessfully for governor this year largely on a platform of preserving Confederate monuments.

Trump has faced a storm of criticism over his remarks on last Saturday’s unrest in Charlottesville, where white nationalists rallied to protest the planned removal of a Confederate statue and a woman was killed when a car plowed through counter-protesters. The president has blamed the violence on not just the rally organizers but also on the anti-racist activists who confronted them.

Trump has also sided with those who favor keeping Confederate monuments in place, saying they are beautiful and will be missed if removed. Opponents of such monuments view them as a festering symbol of racism since the Confederacy fought for the preservation of slavery. Supporters say they honor American history. Some of the monuments have become rallying points for white nationalists.

General Jackson, who led Confederate troops in several key victories, earned his nickname in July 1861 during one of two major battles fought near Manassas, when a fellow general is said to have shouted: “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall!”

“He’s revered throughout Virginia and in Prince William County,” Stewart said. “To take his name off a school is really a slap in the face to an American hero.”

Stonewall Jackson High School, named in 1964 at the height of the civil rights era, is three miles (5 km) from Manassas battlefield. Its 2,400 students are 17 percent black, 19 percent white and more than half Hispanic.

Historians note that much like the installation of many Confederate statues, such school names were given decades after the Civil War ended in 1865, mostly as a response by local officials to growing calls for racial equality in the United States.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group, said it was aware of about 100 U.S. schools and nearly 500 roads named after Robert E. Lee and other Confederate generals. About half of the schools are in Virginia and Texas.

In Dallas, where at least four schools are named for Confederate figures, the school board president said this week he had added the issue to the agenda of an upcoming meeting.

“It’s very hard for me to come up with an answer to an African-American child, or any child, who asks, ‘Why is this school named in honor for someone who fought to keep my ancestors enslaved?'” said the president, Dan Micciche.


Sawyers, of the Prince William County school board, said the Charlottesville events were “the last straw” for him. An online fundraising campaign he started to avoid using taxpayer funds for a name change to Stonewall Jackson High School has raised about $2,000.

Two district teachers, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly about the controversy, criticized the idea of spending up to $750,000 on replacing signage, buying new sports uniforms and revamping facilities.

Parents on Sawyers’ Facebook page echoed that concern. But Cedric Lockhart, who has three children in the school system, contributed money.

“Having a school named after somebody who fought to enslave African-American families like mine – it just feels inappropriate in 2017,” he said in a phone interview.

Lockhart, who grew up in Prince William and attended another high school, said he always found the school’s name disturbing.

Mikayla Harshman, a 2014 graduate of Stonewall Jackson High, said she opposed changing the name.

“They’re erasing history,” said Harshman, 21, who is white and majoring in American history at Radford University. “I feel like taking something like that away is taking away an opportunity to learn.”

Confederate memorials are widespread in Virginia, which saw some of the deadliest Civil War battles. There is a cannon from the era at the entrance of the historic district of downtown Manassas, which seems plucked from the past with its small, quaint buildings.

Standing outside the local museum, Shiine Jackson, 32, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, said she supported changing the high school name.

“The name stands for the Confederacy,” said Jackson, who is black. “This is the South. As a minority, I’ve experienced a lot of racism in my life.”

(This story corrects 4th paragraph, corrects direction to “southwest,” not “east”)

(Reporting and writing by Joseph Ax in New York; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York, Colleen Jenkins in North Carolina and Fatima Bhojani in Manassas, Virginia; Editing by Dina Kyriakidou and Frances Kerry)

Mayor says Lee statue must go as debate over U.S. slave past rages

The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee sits at the center of the park formerly dedicated to him, the site of recent violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. August 18, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Brandon Shulleeta

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) – The mayor of Charlottesville called on Friday for a special session of Virginia’s legislature to let localities decide the fate of Confederate monuments like the statue at the center of a far-right rally last week that turned deadly.

Mayor Mike Signer issued his appeal amid an increasingly contentious debate over what to do with memorials to Confederate figures, who fought for the preservation of slavery during the U.S. Civil War, that are seen by opponents as offensive.

In what has become the biggest domestic crisis of his presidency, Donald Trump has been sharply criticized, including by fellow Republicans, for blaming Charlottesville’s violence not only on the white nationalist rally organizers, but also the anti-racism activists who opposed them.

“Whether they go to museums, cemeteries, or other willing institutions, it is clear that they no longer can be celebrated in shared civic areas,” Signer said in a statement, referring to the statues. “We can, and we must, respond by denying the Nazis and the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) and the so-called alt-right the twisted totem they seek.”

A 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed and several people were injured when a man crashed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters at last Saturday’s rally.

A 20-year-old Ohio man has been charged with her murder. On Friday, he was handed five new felony counts of malicious wounding, with the charges related to serious injuries inflicted on people hit by the vehicle, Charlottesville police said.

Some attendees at the rally were heavily armed, and Signer said in his statement he was also calling for legislation that would let localities ban open or concealed carry of weapons at some public events. And he said he wanted to find a way to memorialize Heyer’s name and legacy.

Heyer’s mother told a memorial service on Thursday that her daughter’s killers tried to silence her. “Well guess what? You just magnified her,” Susan Bro told the service.

Signer said that memorial was a profound turning point for him, and that it made him realize the significance of the city’s statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee had changed.

“Its historical meaning now, and forevermore, will be a magnet for terrorism,” the mayor said in his statement.


Also on Friday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order temporarily banning protests at the Lee Monument in downtown Richmond while new regulations governing demonstrations are put in place, the governor’s office said.

In many places, Confederate monuments have become rallying points for white nationalists. Efforts to remove many such statues have been stepped up since the Charlottesville rally, which was called by far-right groups to protest against plans to remove the Lee statue.

In Maryland on Friday, authorities took down a statue of a 19th century chief justice, Roger Taney, who wrote an infamous 1857 ruling known as the Dred Scott decision that reaffirmed slavery and said black people could not be U.S. citizens.

Trump on Thursday decried the removal of such monuments, drawing stinging rebukes from fellow Republicans in a controversy that inflamed racial tensions nationwide.

The mother of 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.”

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 said.

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.

(Reporting by Brandon Shulleeta in Richmond, Virginia; Additional reporting by Barry Yeoman in Durham, North Carolina, Gina Cherelus in New York, Susan Heavey and Ian Simpson in Washington, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Frances Kerry and Lisa Shumaker)