After President Donald Trump inflamed the national debate over monuments to the Confederacy on Tuesday, telling reporters that white supremacists willing to use deadly violence to defend a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville included some “very fine people,” the City of Baltimore removed four statues honoring the defenders of slavery in the early hours of Wednesday.
Witnesses to the late-night operation, which was completed by 5:30 a.m. local time, shared images and video of workers removing the statues, including a massive one of Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Baltimore’s Wyman Park Dell.
Baltimore’s mayor, Catherine Pugh, was spotted overseeing the operation just before 3 a.m. by Alec MacGillis, a Pro Publica reporter.
Pugh told The Baltimore Sun that her decision to act quickly was partly an effort to avoid the kind of violence sparked by neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville, where an antiracist protester, Heather Heyer, was killed by a white supremacist.
A mayoral commission appointed by Pugh’s predecessor had recommended last year that the statues of Lee and Jackson be removed, along with a monument to Roger Taney, the Supreme Court justice who wrote the notorious Dred Scott decision in 1857, ruling that African-Americans could not be American citizens.
Both of those monuments were removed overnight, along with one dedicated to Confederate women and another honoring Confederate soldiers and sailors, which had been doused in blood-red paint over the weekend.
Pugh acted after activists had vowed to destroy the monuments if the city delayed any longer.
Officials in Durham County, North Carolina, were less inclined to share the viewpoint of antiracist protesters, arresting a 22-year-old woman accused of helping to topple a Confederate statue there, and charging her with rioting and vandalism.
Trump’s intemperate defense of the white supremacists at a news conference in Trump Tower on Tuesday was widely condemned, but seemed to delight his neo-Nazi supporters, including David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, and Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right” to rebrand white supremacy.
Trump "They had a permit, the other group didn't have a permit"— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) August 15, 2017
Yes, white supremacy and slave owners had legal permission too
I'm proud of him for speaking the truth.— Richard ??Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) August 15, 2017
Trump’s latest defense of white supremacists reminded many close observers of his career that his father, Fred Trump, was reportedly arrested at a KKK rally in Queens in 1927.