Work crews began removing “symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism” from the campus of the University of Texas at Austin late last night in an operation scheduled to last until midmorning.
Local NBC affiliate KCRA reports that statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, and Confederate Postmaster General John H. Reagan are being relocated to the Brisco Center for American History instead of the campus mall.
A contemporary statue of Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg will also be moved from the mall to another location to be determined.
The midnight move is the latest example of Confederate monuments being removed in the dead of night to prevent alt-right, neo-Nazi, KKK, and neo-confederate activists from holding protests that might turn violent.
— Chase Karacostas (@chasekaracostas) August 21, 2017
— KUT Austin (@KUT) August 21, 2017
The decision to remove the statues was much faster than in 2015, when a monument to CSA president Jefferson Davis was removed from the campus commons. In a statement, university president Greg Fenves explained that events in Charlottesville, Virginia eight days ago had forced the decision this time.
The University of Texas at Austin is a public educational and research institution, first and foremost. The historical and cultural significance of the Confederate statues on our campus — and the connections that individuals have with them — are severely compromised by what they symbolize. Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry.
The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history. But our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university’s core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of the Forty Acres.
Fenves is wise to cut off any opportunity for protest. Monuments erected to the “lost cause” of the Confederacy are explicit celebrations of white supremacy, which has always been secured first and foremost through violence.
Appearing on the CBS Sunday show “Face the Nation” yesterday, Vice reporter Elle Reeve noted that the alt-right crowd in Charlotteville “didn’t talk about Robert E. Lee being a brilliant military tactician, they chanted about Jews.” Instead of exalting historical figures, “they wanted to be menacing.”
Jason Kessler, who organized the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, did not condemn the murder of Heather Heyer. Instead, he declared that her death was “payback time” for a “fat, disgusting communist,” thus dehumanizing a victim of white supremacist terrorism to excuse further acts of violence.
But if Kessler and his ilk thought they were preserving “heritage,” they have achieved the opposite. The strong potential for tragedy now gives city governments and college campuses new reason to remove Confederate monuments — and every right to do it without notice, in the dead of night.
They aren’t erasing history. They are tearing down a false history imposed on Americans by force and threats of force.
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