Early Tuesday morning, June 30, Charlottesville, Virginia police received a report that a statue of General Robert E. Lee had been vandalized. NBC29 reports that, upon investigation, police found that the words “Black Lives Matter,” had been painted in bright green paint on the base of the statue. The phrase was painted over General Lee’s name. General Lee was an American soldier best known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until his surrender in 1865.
Reportedly, last week, vandals painted the same sentiment on a statue in Richmond, Virginia, on a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. A statue of Jefferson Davis can also be found in the rotunda of the Kentucky Capitol building. Davis was a native of that state. Senate Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell has joined calls for the removal of the statue from the building. McConnell stated that “Maybe a better place for that would be the Kentucky History Museum.”
In light of the recent events in Charleston, South Carolina, the June 17 gunning down of nine members of that city’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, by 21-year-old Dylann Roof, anything that symbolizes the South in the Civil War, from statues to flags, is being targeted and discussed. Photographs of Roof posing with the Confederate battle flag were found in pictures he posted on the Internet. In a statement, Roof claimed that he “had no choice,” in his decision to murder nine innocent people.
The Confederate flag and symbols of the confederacy, such as these two statues, have recently been the focus of multiple debates. According to a report today by CNN, a number of Southern states have taken steps to remove the Confederate flag from monuments and state Capitols. South Carolina’s legislature has enough votes to remove the flag from its Capitol grounds. Governor Haley and other officials have also called for it to be taken down.
The breakdown of states debating similar changes are as follows:
- Virginia – the Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty license plate will no longer be available for purchase
- Tennessee – the Governor has said the Confederate flag should be removed from a similar plate; this proposal will be addressed early next year. Governor Haslam also called for the state to remove a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, from the Capitol. Forrest was a Ku Klux Klan founder.
- Mississippi – Lawmakers voted in 2001 to keep the Confederate flag in place as part of its state flag. However, State House Speaker Philip Gunn said that the state’s current flag, which features the Confederate stars and stripes in the upper left corner, should be changed. Lawmakers in that state may debate that this coming January.
- Georgia – the Governor of that state also halted the use of the Sons of Confederate Veterans plate.
- Alabama – Governor Bentley ordered that four Confederate flags be removed from a monument on the state’s capitol grounds; 1,000 flag supporters rallied at the Statehouse on June 27, claiming its removal was an “affront to their southern heritage.”
By noon, a city crew had removed the words painted on Lee’s statue.