Following a white nationalist rally in Virginia that turned fatal, city officials and state leaders across the country have called for monuments honoring the Confederacy in their municipalities to be removed.
On Aug. 11, hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the alt-right gathered to protest the removal of a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Aug. 12, the white nationalists held a rally in the college town and clashed with anti-racist protesters, KABC reports.
Hostilities took a murderous turn when 20-year-old James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others. Virginia police officers Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates died in a helicopter crash while surveying the rally.
On Aug. 14, Alachua County officials removed a statue depicting Confederate soldiers from a government building and transferred the monument to a nearby cemetery in Gainesville, Florida.
"It's about time," 41-year-old Melissa Wokasch, a Gainesville resident, told Gainesville.com. "I think this should have been done a long time ago. I think there's a greater sense of urgency now than ever."
That sense of urgency appears to have spread across the nation, as several city officials have announced plans to tear down or transfer their Confederate monuments.
City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche of Jacksonville, Florida, announced for an inventory on of the city's Confederate statues with plans to transfer them off of public land and into museums, Jacksonville.com reports.
Democratic Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington, Kentucky, announced that he would seek city council and state approval to remove two Confederate monuments from the town's courthouse, CBS News reports.
"The tragic events in Charlottesville today have accelerated the announcement I intended to make next week," Gray tweeted out.
Gray will receive pushback from GOP Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky, who publicly stated that he was against tearing down any Confederate monuments, according to WUKY.
"It doesn't have to be celebrated, as in that this was something we did and we should do again," Bevin said of the Confederacy. The governor added that he did not want the statues taken down "because where do you draw the line?"
Democratic Mayor Jim Strickland and Attorney General Bruce McMullen of Memphis have announced that they are prepared to sue their state to gain the right to take down two Confederate monuments in their city. Memphis had attempted to remove the statues beforehand but were stopped by the Tennessee Historical Commission. One of the statutes in question honors Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
"What Nathan Bedford Forrest stood for doesn't express the views of this community at this time and it's counterproductive to what we want this community to be, and that is an inclusive community working together," McMullen told The Commercial Appeal.
Meanwhile, GOP Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee has faced pressure from constituents to remove a bust of Forrest from the state Capitol building in Nashville. Haslam has asserted that the issue is out of his hands, the Tennessean reports.
"I do not believe that Nathan Bedford Forrest should be one of the individuals we honor at the Capitol," Haslam said, before adding that the state General Assembly would have to remove the bust through the legislative process.
Lastly, Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh of Baltimore has called for all four Confederate monuments in her city to be transferred to cemeteries. A city commission had previously recommended that two of the statues be removed while the remainder be affixed with plaques explaining their historical context, but Pugh announced that all four would be removed.
Pugh has faced calls from several Baltimore City Council members to publicly destroy the monuments.
"The very least we can do is destroy the symbols we have of oppression," said Baltimore Councilman Ryan Dorsey.
Pugh has dismissed the idea and has pointed to two Confederate cemeteries in Maryland, stating: "We will inquire as to their willingness to accept the monuments and prepare agreements for the transfer."
Some constituents have not waited for their officials to take action against their Confederate monuments. On Aug. 14, protesters tore down a Confederate statue from a courthouse in Durham, North Carolina. Local law enforcement is addressing the incident as an act of vandalism.
The movement to tear down shrines to the Confederacy gained traction since June 2015, when white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that 60 Confederate monuments have been taken down across the country between June 2015 and April 2017. In all, 718 monuments honoring the Confederacy remain, according to Reuters.
Sources: The Baltimore Sun, CBS News, The Commercial Appeal, Gainesville.com, Jacksonville.com, KABC, Reuters, Tennessean, WUKY / Featured Image: Peter Kaminski/Flickr / Embedded Images: Tim1965/Wikimedia Commons (2)