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National Battle Over Confederate Monuments Renewed After Charlottesville Violence

Local officials in several states have renewed calls to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces, following the outrage at the deadly violence surrounding a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

In Kentucky, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced plans to move two Confederate statues from a public area near a historic courthouse in the city that is being turned into a visitor’s center.

“I think in times like this it’s extremely important that elected officials communicate clearly with their constituents — it’s time to stand up and speak out, not sit back and relax,” he told NBC News on Monday.

Gray added that he had already made the decision to relocate the monuments from the prominent area of the city beforehand, but decided to make the announcement following the chaos in Charlottesville.

On Friday and Saturday, rallies supported by white-nationalist groups in Charlottesville ended in a woman being killed and at least 19 others wounded after a man plowed his car into a crowd. Organizers said the rallies were held to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

On Monday in Maryland, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement: “It is my intention to move forward with the removal of Baltimore City’s confederate statues.” Pugh added that she had read the recommendations of an earlier task force and had taken steps to appoint a working group to lead the process.

Baltimore City Councilman Brandon M. Scott told NBC News on Monday night that a resolution he proposed calling for the deconstruction of the city’s Confederate monuments had been unanimously approved by the City Council.

“What no one who saw what we saw in Charlottesville … should do is sit back and just say that we should allow these monuments to stay up across our country, so these folks have lightning rod to come to,” he said.

Scott’s resolution calls for melting down the Confederate monuments.

“They should be melted down and re-purposed to honor true American heroes,” he said. Scott said after his resolution was approved, the final decision would still be in the hands of Mayor Pugh.

And in Florida, President of the Jacksonville City Council Anna Lopez Brosche said in a statement Monday that she was asking city officials to conduct an inventory of all of the Confederate symbols on public property, in order to develop a plan of action to relocate them.

Brosche said she intended to propose legislation to move them to museums and other institutions where they would be preserved and given historical context.

Symbols of the Confederacy have once again become a source of intense controversy as protesters on both sides have engaged in heated protests over their removal.

On Monday evening, protesters toppled a Confederate monument in in Durham, North Carolina, using a ladder and rope, according to NBC affiliate WRAL.

On Saturday, hundreds protested the presence of a Confederate statue in San Antonio, Texas, after a similar rally was held last month. And last week, protesters clashed in Dallas over another monument, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.

In May, New Orleans authorities removed a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during tense demonstrations.

And in the capital of Virginia there is an ongoing debate on whether Confederate monuments there should stay or go. In June, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said the monuments could stay but announced the formation of a 10-person committee to help “redefine the false narrative” of the statues and add more context.

A Confederate heritage rally at one of the statues is planned for September 16. The request was filed on July 28 and is pending approval, officials said.

In light of the events in Charlottesville, Stoney has said he still believes the monuments should stay but allowing a rally should be carefully considered.

Christy Coleman, co-chair of the commission, said any changes made to their focus will come from Stoney.

“However, we are not blind to the conversations taking place not only around the country but in our community,” Coleman said in an email to NBC News.

Public outcry and support for removing Confederate monuments and symbols from publicly-owned areas and buildings escalated after white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine parishioners at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

In Lexington, Gray said on Monday his move must now be approved by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council and Kentucky Military Heritage Commission.

The plan was to possibly move them to a park honoring veterans and create an area dedicated to the Civil War and include context along with the statues, alongside additional works including those of Union troops and perhaps an African American unit.

The timing of his announcement, was “also influenced by American values and what we hold dear —liberty, freedom, justice for all — and clearly these values were being challenged in Charlottesville,” Gray added. “There was no going back.”

Source: NBC News

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