Monuments Across the United States Re-Emerged as Targets of Rage Over a Weekend of Widespread Protest
From Denver to Philadelphia to San Antonio to Washington, DC, public art has been swept up in the protests in spectacular ways.
Amid the breathtaking wave of protests over police violence shaking the United States, public monuments of all kinds have become symbolic flash points.
For decades, Confederate statues and other memorials honoring figures associated with racism have been the target of campaigns for removal. The subject has been a near continuous source of protest and debate since the arrival of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013. It was kicked into an even more intense phase after activist Bree Newsome’s direct action to remove the Confederate Battle flag from the South Carolina capitol in 2015, in the wake of the white supremacist terrorist attack at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
And yet it is fair to say that, in the shadow of the historic protests convulsing public space, more dramatic action has been taken in just the last few momentous days than in those long years. Below, I’ve tried to give a sense of the different ways monuments became sites of struggle.
In Richmond, Virginia, as riot police and protesters faced off on Sunday, memorials to Confederate grandees Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and J.E.B. Stuart stood covered in protest graffiti. “At one point,” the Commonwealth Times reported of the demonstrations, “a protester climbed the Jefferson Davis statue, hung a noose around its neck and rallied other protesters to pull the statue down, which was unsuccessful.”
Nearby, the headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the organization historically responsible for many of the monuments to the Confederacy, was also covered with graffiti, including phrases like “fucking racists,” “police are creepy,” “stole from us,” and “abolition,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was set ablaze in the early hours of Sunday.
Nine fire trucks were called in to fight the blaze at the institution, which is located between the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.
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