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Baltimore wakes up to Confederate monuments gone

Mary Rose Madden

Baltimore quietly removed four Confederate monuments Tuesday night, responding to activists who called for them to be taken down after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend turned deadly.

At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Catherine Pugh said she wanted to get the monuments out of Baltimore as quickly and quietly as possible, in large part out of concern for public safety.

“I think any city that has Confederate statues are concerned about violence occurring in their city,” she said.

Tuesday night, crews hired by the city took down the Jackson-Lee Memorial in Wyman Park Dell, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument on Mt. Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women’s Monument on West University Parkway and the Roger B. Taney monument on Mount Vernon Place.

Local activists were planning to dismantle at least one of the monuments themselves tonight if the city didn’t get there first. On Twitter, they used #DoItLikeDurham, referring to a crowd in Durham, North Carolina, that pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier Monday night.

Pugh said she didn’t know about that effort and that last night’s stealth removal had been in the works. She said she told City Council President Jack Young on Monday that, “with the climate of this nation, that I think it’s very important that we move quickly and quietly.”

The City Council also passed a resolution calling for the removal of the statues on Monday.

In their place, Pugh said, she would like to see plaques explaining what was removed and why.

She doesn’t yet know where the removed pieces will go — possibly to Confederate cemeteries elsewhere in Maryland.

On Wednesday morning, people were snapping selfies and taking photos of their children where the statues of Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee once stood in Wyman Park Dell.

“I believe it was removed because they don’t want the same thing to happen here in Baltimore City that happened down in Virginia,” said Larry Wallace, who was there with his 7-year-old daughter. “I’m glad that peace was here.”

A sign reading, “White Supremacy is Terrorism,” lay on the monument’s pedestal, next to a cluster of red pencils with the words “this machine kills fascists.” And a sculpture of a pregnant black woman, with a baby on her back, fist raised in defiance, towered about 10 feet over the space where the generals once stood.

That sculpture went up earlier in the week around the time that thousands gathered there Sunday night to protest these monuments and show support for Charlottesville.

Corey Anderson, who has lived in Baltimore for nine years, said he was there Tuesday afternoon, when the Lee and Jackson monument was in place and some 30 people were talking about what it represented.   

“The monument itself is about white supremacy,” Anderson said. “We talked about a lot of things. But really what it boiled down to is a lack of trust between us and the police, between us and the government, between neighbors. A lot of people don’t even who their neighbors are. And so how do we start to fix someone of those things.”

He said he wasn’t surprised that the statue was removed overnight.

“But I was thinking now that the statue is gone, we need to work on systematic racism in housing and economics,” he said. “We need to think about what opportunities we are creating for all of Baltimore and all of the community.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently put out a map of all the hate groups state by state.

There are 18 hate groups in Maryland. This didn’t surprise Anderson either. 

“Being black in America you recognize there is a lot of hate — as a black American, that’s the reality,” he said. “A lot of other people are starting to understand and wake up, so to speak.”

There are still other monuments to the Confederacy and supporters of slavery in other parts of the state. One in front of the State House depicts former Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, who wrote the 1857 Dred Scot decision that upheld slavery.

Gov. Larry Hogan and House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch both said earlier this week that they would support removing that statue. According to The Baltimore Sun, the State House Trust — of which is Busch is a member — voted Wednesday to remove the statue from the State House grounds.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
Mary Rose is a reporter and senior news producer for 88.1 WYPR FM, a National Public Radio member station in Baltimore. At the local news desk, she assigns stories, organizes special coverage, edits news stories, develops series and reports.
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