Richmond removes Confederate statues

WASHINGTON • A campaign in the US to remove symbols of the pro-slavery Civil War South gained momentum on Wednesday as workers began taking down statues in the Virginia city that was the Confederate capital and Mississippi retired the state flag.

Workers in Richmond, Virginia, removed a statue of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a Confederate general, after the city’s mayor ordered the “immediate removal” of Confederate monuments.

In Jackson, Mississippi, the state flag was permanently lowered from the state’s capitol and taken to a nearby museum. The Mississippi state flag was the last US state banner featuring a Confederate emblem.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said he was using his emergency powers to remove Confederate monuments in order to “expedite the healing process for the city”.

“It is past time,” Stoney said. “As the capital city of Virginia, we have needed to turn this page for decades.”

The mayor said that as the Southern capital during the 1861-1865 Civil War, Richmond has been “burdened with that legacy”.

“The great weight of that burden has fallen on our residents of colour,” Stoney added. “These statues, although symbolic, have cast a shadow on the dreams of our children of colour.

“By removing them, we can begin to heal and focus our attention on our future.”

Stoney called the move a “down payment” rather than a “solution” to racial injustice in the city and across America.

He said the statues also presented a threat to public safety because protesters have been attempting to take them down during the coronavirus pandemic.

Work crews could be seen in televised footage removing the statue on Monument Avenue of Jackson, a Virginian who died in May 1863.

A crowd of several hundred people erupted in cheers as the statue of Jackson mounted on a horse was removed from its stone pedestal by a crane. — AFP