City workers in Richmond, Virginia, have removed a statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson on Wednesday afternoon. The removal comes following the orders of Mayor Levar Stoney, weeks after the removal of a Jefferson Davis statue earlier in June by protesters.
Hundreds of people gathered to witness its removal, which started at 1 p.m. local time and ending roughly three-and-a-half hours later. Stoney said he was using his emergency powers to order the immediate removal of "multiple monuments in the city, including Confederate statues," in a statement, according to WTVR. "As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge, and protesters attempt to take down Confederate statues themselves or confront others who are doing so, the risk grows for serious illness, injury, or death. We have an urgent need to protect the public." He also said the city needed to "heal" as it comes to terms with the history it shares with the losing side of the Civil War.
Two hours before the statue's removal, Richmond City Council had voted to remove all Confederate monuments from Monument Avenue. This action followed the mayor's resolution calling for the immediate removal of Confederate statues on city land. He'd argued that since Richmond was under a state of emergency, he had the right to remove the installment, citing concerns over public safety. Richmond City Councilman Mike Jones seemed to agree.
"It's history. It's history being made," Jones said. "That's why I'm out here. And so people are going to get upset about the process. I think it's the right thing to do at the right time. I could say it's 130 years, too late, but in light of all the protesting and everything that's going on, I know a lot of people in Richmond want to get to our new norm. So I'm ready."
The removal comes after more than a month of civil rights protests have continued in cities across the U.S. and around the world. Sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, the demonstrators began calling for an end to police violence, which disproportionally affects minorities.
As the protests have continued, the removal of statues that depict slave owners, including those in the Confederacy, became one of their rallying cries. So much, so that many took matters into their own hands and removed the statues themselves. It was a concern for the latter that prompted Stoney to act on the decision swiftly.