Crews removed Confederate statues from city parks and public squares across Baltimore shortly after midnight on Wednesday, according to the New York Times.
The City Council unanimously passed a resolution to tear down several monuments after a white nationalist rally to defend similar statues turned deadly in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh told the Baltimore Sun that she was acting in the “best interest of [her] city” to remove the statues without announcement and under the cover of darkness, citing public safety fears as her reason for doing so.
“The mayor has the right to protect her city,” Pugh said in a statement Wednesday. “For me, the statues represented pain, and not only did I want to protect my city from any more of that pain, I also wanted to protect my city from any of the violence that was occurring around the nation. We don’t need that in Baltimore.”
Pugh, a staunch Democrat, said she has been working towards the removal of the statutes since June, even discussing the issue with other mayors across the country. Last week, she met with contractors to get assessments on the feasibility of removing the statues as quickly as possible.
“I thought that there’s enough grandstanding, enough speeches being made. Get it done,” Pugh said, displaying her authoritarian tendencies.
Her plan came to fruition early Wednesday morning when crews used cranes to tear down more than four monuments across the city, including a Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson monument; a statue of two Confederate generals riding horses; the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument; and the Confederate Women’s Monument.
Pugh also authorized the removal of a Roger B. Taney monument. Taney, a Maryland native, served as the Supreme Court chief justice and wrote the landmark decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) opining that free blacks had no claim to citizenship in the United States.
Some residents could be seen celebrating on the pedestal upon which the monuments stood, and one person spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” on one of the bases.
The statues were carted away on flatbeds, although it is still unclear what will happen to the monuments or what will take their place. Pugh suggested for plaques to be installed explaining “what was there and why it was removed” or possibly moving the statues to Confederate cemeteries located elsewhere in the state.
One city councilman wanted the statues destroyed.
“These people were terrorists. They were traitors,” councilman Brandon M. Scott said at a meeting on Monday. “Why are we honoring them?”
Other community leaders across the country, including those in Gainesville, Fla., and Lexington, Va., have called for the removal of their own confederate monuments.
Other political leaders, like Republican Kentucky governor Matt Bevin, oppose such actions. Bevin argued Tuesday that removing Confederate monuments from public spaces amounted to a “sanitization of history” that could be dangerous because it would encourage people to “pretend it didn’t happen.”
“If we want to learn from history, if we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of our past, then we better teach it to our young people,” Bevin said during a radio interview, as reported by the Courier-Journal. “It better be known, it doesn’t have to be celebrated as in, ‘This was something we did and should do again.’”
The debate on removal of Confederate monuments garnered national attention after a demonstration by white nationalists and self-proclaimed “alt-right” activists against the removal of a Lee statue took place in Charlottesville. A clash between protesters and counter-protesters became violent after law enforcement failed to keep the white supremacists and counter-protesters separate.
“The fact that people were allowed to clash with one another as they were in Virginia, that people were encouraged to come in and counter-protest, and be just as violent and angry as the hateful people that came in the first place, people knew what was going to happen,” Bevin said to the Courier-Journal.
The violent protest quickly turned deadly after a driver with alleged “far-right” beliefs plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman. Two state troopers also died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the event.
Further tensions ensued when President Donald Trump refrained from outright denouncing the protesters. Instead, he condemned the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups. On Tuesday, Trump stated that parties on “both sides” of the conflict were to blame for the deadly violence.