Baltimore’s statues honoring the legacies of bygone Confederate soldiers and leaders must go, city lawmakers decided Monday evening.
The council unanimously adopted a resolution offered by Councilman Brandon Scott to remove all four such monuments in the city limits. Scott shared the text of his motion on Saturday, hours after hundreds of white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters in the streets of Charlottesville, Va. Amid the chaos, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others injured after a 20-year-old man drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd. At least 15 others sustained injuries throughout the day.
Scott’s proposal calls for “the immediate destruction of all Confederate monuments” in the city. “Baltimore has had more than enough time to think on the issue,” the resolution states. “It’s time to act.”
How and when they will be removed remains unclear. The city has been trying to discard two of its Confederate monuments since 2015, when a commission formed by then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recommended getting rid of the statues of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney in Mount Vernon and Confederate general Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in the Wyman Park Dell. The other two memorials — the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Bolton Hill and the Confederate Women’s Monument in Bishop Square Park — needed to “recontextualized” with signage, the commission said.
The city ultimately added signs to all four monuments, but didn’t remove any of them. In May, about half a year after Mayor Catherine Pugh assumed her post in City Hall, some asked whether her administration planned to follow through on the removals after New Orleans’ mayor made good on his promise to take down his city’s Confederate statues. Pugh said she wanted to, but that it was costly – about $200,000 per statue – and suggested the city could auction them off to cover the costs.
Pugh said yesterday morning that she’s since reached out to contractors for estimates to remove all four monuments. She’s also forming a task force that will include two members of the private sector “to help with fundraising,” and said her administration is searching for places that would take the statues.
Scott’s measure didn’t include a plan for removal. Some local leaders, including former NAACP president and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, have proposed melting them down and using the material to craft new statues of civil rights heroes, such as famed abolitionist and native Marylander Harriet Tubman and the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall. Scott seems to like with that idea:
Melting them down and using the materials to make monuments for Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, Harriet Tubman would be powerful!
— Brandon M. Scott (@CouncilmanBMS) August 15, 2017
If the city doesn’t come up with a plan soon, the locals may get to them first. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue was discovered yesterday doused in red paint. And at some point beforehand or soon after, someone spray painted “Black Lives Matter” on the Lee-Jackson Monument in Wyman Park Dell, where protesters had already erected Pablo Machioli’s 2015 “Mother Light” statue — depicting a pregnant black woman with her fist raised and a child on her back – in front of the Confederate memorial.
The masses’ approach would likely be very different (see: rougher) from Mayor Pugh’s plan to go through local contractors for the removal. In Durham, N.C., protesters flexed their DIY muscles yesterday to tear down a Confederate monument in their town.
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