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(Richmond) After several years of tensions centered on America’s slavery past, the country’s most important monument denounced as a racist symbol was unmasked on Wednesday in Virginia: the gigantic statue of General Lee, the former Southern Commanders.
Posted on Sep 8, 2021 at 11:12 am
Bastien INZAURRALDE and Sébastien BLANC in Washington Agence France-Presse
After the equestrian statue perched on its 12-meter-high base for over 130 years, it was gently lowered by a crane in Richmond, the former capital of the secession during the Civil War of 1861-1865.
Hundreds of people had gathered from afar to attend the event. Some waved their fists, shouted jokes or cheers when the imposing piece of bronze, the work of the French artist Antonin Mercié, was torn from its pedestal.
The chief Confederate military leader, Robert Lee, fought with the southern states against those in the north who had abolished slavery.
This retreat “erases a stain in the history of Virginia and the history of America,” confided Muhammad Abdul-Rahman, a local union official.
George Floyd Effect
While many Confederate monuments across the country have recently been secretly dismantled – sometimes in the middle of the night – under pressure from the Black Lives Matter movement, Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam wanted it to have a national impact on the Unlock.
The monuments celebrating Robert Lee and the other great figures of the southern states are now viewed by a good portion of Americans as racist symbols, while others, on the contrary, consider them part of their historical heritage. The question remains sensitive.
Governor Northam had announced his intention to remove the Confederate general’s statue in June 2020, ten days after the death of George Floyd, who suffocated under the knee of a white policeman, in Minneapolis.
The murder of this African American sparked a global movement against racial discrimination and energized the debate about the country’s slavery past.
A legal guerrilla war started on the spot by supporters of the Confederate statue – the largest in the country – delayed dismantling, which was finally upheld by a ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court last week.
6 stories high
Robert Lee rides his thoroughbred proudly, reins in hand, and has a deliberately dominant stance. Its 12-ton statue reached the height of a six-story building.
“Whose street is that?” Our! “On Wednesday, the Witnesses gathered on Monument Avenue, the Richmond boulevard that until 2020 was marked with other statues dedicated to the glory of the losers of the Civil War.
This normally peaceful neighborhood has in fact become an epicenter of tension and controversy, as evidenced by the statue’s base, stained with graffiti and slogans calling for “accountability” in particular on the police.
Due to the sensitivity of the monument, authorities had taken draconian security measures and temporarily banned traffic around the perimeter, and drone overflights were also banned on Wednesday.
Richmond “is no longer the capital of the Confederation,” said Levar Stoney, the African-American mayor of the city south of Washington.
Also in the same state of Virginia, another controversial equestrian statue of General Lee in Charlottesville sparked violence from young woman in the summer of 2017.
At the time, Republican President Donald Trump believed that exposing the statues of southern officers was tantamount to “ripping apart” the history of the United States.
Ermias Woldemariam, a Virginia resident who was present when the statue was removed, disagreed: “If people want to see it, put it in a museum. At least not here, in the eyes of the population every day ”.