Maryland authorities removed a statue on Friday of a 19th century chief justice who wrote the pro-slavery Dred Scott decision, the latest example of action across the United States over memorials that have sparked racially charged protests.
Meanwhile, the mother of a woman killed on Saturday when a car plowed into counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in the Virginia city of Charlottesville said that after hearing Donald Trump’s latest comments, she did not want to talk to the president.
In what has become the biggest domestic crisis of his presidency, Trump has been strongly criticised, including by many fellow Republicans, for blaming the Charlottesville violence on not just the white nationalist rally organizers, but also the anti-racism activists who opposed them.
Crews in Maryland’s state capital, Annapolis, hitched straps overnight to the 145-year-old bronze statue of Roger Taney and then removed it from its base outside State House using a crane, according to media reports and social media postings.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, had called on Wednesday for the monument to be taken down immediately, saying it was “the right thing to do.” Taney’s infamous 1857 decision reaffirmed slavery and said black people could not be US citizens.
Opponents of monuments to the Confederate states, which fought in the US Civil War for the preservation of slavery, view them as a festering symbol of racism, while supporters say they honor American history. Some of the monuments have become rallying points for white nationalists.
Efforts to remove many such statues around the country have been stepped up since the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, which was called to protest plans to remove a Confederate monument.
“While we cannot hide from our history – nor should we – the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history,” Hogan said in his statement on Wednesday.
Civil rights activists and some Maryland lawmakers had long protested against the statue of Taney, whose decision read in part: “The negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”
Trump on Thursday decried the removal of Confederate monuments, drawing stinging rebukes from fellow Republicans in a controversy that has inflamed racial tensions nationwide.
The mother of Heather Heyer, the woman killed in Charlottesville, said in a television interview on Friday that after Trump’s comments, “I’m not talking to the president now.”
“You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m not forgiving him for that,” Susan Bro said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
She added she would tell Trump: “Think before you speak.”
“I think the president has found a niche in voters of the people who feel marginalized and I think he has continued to nurture those marginalized voters,” Bro told MSNBC separately on Thursday. “I’ve had death threats already … because of what I’m doing right this second – I’m talking.”
There are more than 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces across the United States, with 700 of those being monuments and statues, the Southern Poverty Law Center says. More than half a dozen have been taken down since Saturday.
In Lexington, Kentucky, government leaders voted on Thursday in favor of moving two Confederate statues from their plinths outside a former courthouse that is being turned into a visitor center, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said.
“By relocating theses statues we are not destroying, hiding or sanitizing history,” Gray said in a statement. “We are honoring and learning our history through this relocation.”