City commissioners have removed a Confederate monument from a public park in Helena, Montana. Native American lawmakers in the state had urged officials to remove the monument following a white nationalist rally that rocked Charlottesville, Virginia.
On Aug. 16, the Helena City Commission ordered City Manager Ron Alles to remove a fountain commemorating the Daughters of the Confederacy in the town's Hill Park. The commissioners decided during an administrative meeting that the monument would be removed without an official vote, the Helena Independent Record reports.
"I believe that if the fountain remains in the park there will likely be a confrontation where high emotions coupled with strong beliefs spill over into violence," said Helena Commissioner Dan Ellison.
The Confederate Memorial Fountain was erected in the public park in 1916. Mayor Jim Smith of Helena, who had previously opposed removing the monument, announced that the Charlottesville rally had prompted him to believe "the time has come for the removal of the fountain."
On Aug. 11, white nationalists gathered at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. On Aug. 12, more white nationalist arrived in the college town to stage a white supremacist rally, clashing with anti-racist counter protesters. Alt-right member James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly drove his car through a crowd of counter protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, according to The Washington Post.
In an Aug. 15 letter to the editor published in the Great Falls Tribune, Democratic State Rep. and Native American Shane Morigeau writes: "We ask that you all recognize the harmful message that this fountain sends to Indians, minorities, and all Montanans of this great state. Please take a stand and recognize that this fountain is a divisive symbol in Montana and represents a history that our country and citizens have repeatedly fought against."
On Aug. 18, Helena officials began uprooting the fountain, meeting backlash from several city residents who protested the decision.
"We're just trying to preserve this monument," a 28-year-old Helena resident protesting the fountain removal told The Associated Press. "It's part of our history, and we don't need to follow the precedent of the rest of the country."
City Parks and Recreation Director Amy Teegarden of Helena disclosed that the monument would be transferred to a city warehouse, with its ultimate fate undecided.
"Our intention is to remove it in such a way that the fountain, and its pieces, can remain intact and be reassembled at a future date," Teegarden said.
Sources: AP via the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Great Falls Tribune, Helena Independent Record, The Washington Post / Featured Image: Montanabw/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Martin Kraft/Wikimedia Commons, Montanabw/Wikimedia Commons