Four Confederate monuments in Baltimore were removed overnight by city officials. Democratic Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh had previously decided to uproot the statues but expedited the process following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
On Aug. 16, city contractors transferred four Confederate statues from their pedestals onto flatbed trucks after midnight. The timing of the statues' removal had not been previously announced and came as a surprise to city residents.
"We moved quickly and quietly," Pugh said in a press conference that morning, according to The Baltimore Sun. "There was enough grandstanding, enough speeches being made. Get it done."
The Baltimore City Council had already unanimously voted to remove the statues but had differed over whether to destroy them or preserve them.
"These people were terrorists," Councilman Brandon M. Scott of Baltimore asserted during a city council meeting on Aug. 14. "They were traitors. Why are we honoring them?"
Pugh has stated that the statues will not be destroyed but transferred to Maryland cemeteries.
The four monuments depicted Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jackson, Confederate soldiers and sailors, Confederate women and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney.
Taney, whose statue was erected in 1887, had written the 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision that invalidated the citizenship and civil rights of all blacks before the Civil War.
Following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Pugh decided to remove the Confederate monuments quietly to avoid any protests.
"For me, the statues represented pain, and not only did I want to protect my city from any more of that pain, I also wanted to protect my city from any of the violence that was occurring around the nation," Pugh told The New York Times. "We don't need that in Baltimore."
Pugh added that, following the events in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, where one person died and more than 19 were injured in clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters, any "city that has Confederate statues are concerned about violence occurring in their city."
The decision was also spurred by pressure from activist group Coalition of Friends/Tubman House, which had proposed to hold a rally to tear down the monuments without city supervision, NPR reports.
That rally was cancelled following the monuments' removal.
Carolyn Billups of the Maryland United Daughters of the Confederacy criticized city officials' decision to remove the statues without prior notice.
"Rats run at night," Billups said. "It's very saddening, but at least the monuments were not torn down by angry mobs."
Baltimore resident Laura Mortimer expressed relief that the statues had been removed from her city.
"It was definitely a surprise, but a very welcome surprise," Mortimer said. "Better than Christmas morning."