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Baltimore quietly removes Confederate statues, avoids violent protests

The city removed four statues to "celebration" early Wednesday.
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Residents celebrate Wednesday morning atop a pedestal that once held a statue of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Photo: Twitter/@notrivia

Baltimore Confederate statues were abruptly removed in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, days after violent protests erupted over the removal of similar monuments in Virginia.

The decision by Mayor Catherine Pugh put a swift end to more than a year of indecision on what to do with four statues of Confederate heroes that stood in the city. But following the deadly attack by a white supremacist protestor at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, the Baltimore City Council made the unanimous decision to remove the icons, The Baltimore Sun reported.

The city had been studying the issue since 2015, when the mass shooting by a white supremacist at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina stirred up debate over the appropriateness of displaying Confederate icons.

Small crowds gathered at the sites of the Confederate statues as they were unceremoniously ripped from their pedestals and loaded onto a flatbed truck early Wednesday morning, The New York Times reported.

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Statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson came down around 3:30 a.m., followed by a monument of Roger B. Taney, the Supreme Court chief justice and Maryland native who wrote the 1857 landmark Dred Scott decision, which ruled even free blacks had no claim to citizenship.

Though technically not a Confederate, Taney became a Confederate hero as supporters of slavery widely celebrated the decision.

The fourth statue, the Confederate Women’s Monument, was also torn from its pedestal.

The mood as the statues came down was “powerful,” according to Baynard Woods, Baltimore City Paper editor, who documented the removals on Twitter.

As police cars escorted the statues out of town just before sunrise, resident celebrated atop the defaced pedestals that just hours before held symbols of America’s dark and racist past. Someone had spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” across the side.

The scene was very different from the one this past weekend when a group of alt-right activists and white supremacists protested the removal of a Lee statue in Charlottesville. Over the course of the two-day protest, dozens were injured and a 32-year-old counterprotester was killed when one of the “Unite the Right” ralliers slammed his car into a crowd. Two state troopers monitoring the event were also killed when their helicopter crashed.

 
 
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