CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Hours after monuments to two Confederate generals were removed, a third statue came down Saturday afternoon.
During a special emergency meeting, the Charlottesville City Council decided to take down the Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea statue. The city tweeted a photo of officials whisking it away just before 2:45 p.m.
The council's unanimous 5-0 vote came after crowds cheered when the bronze statues depicting Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were carted away Saturday morning.
Nearly four years after white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups stormed the Virginia college town to protest the city's planned removal of the Lee monument,about 200 residents, spectators and Black Lives Matter supporters came out Saturday morning to witness the moment the first two statues were taken down.
Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker told reporters and observers in a speech near the monuments that the removal of the statues "is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America, grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain."
Seth Wispelwey traveled from Tucson, Arizona.
“This matters a lot to me,” said Wispelwey, who grew up in the city. “Some might say it’s not that big of deal, but it’s a piece of gospel-specific history that we can liberate our public spaces that erased Black and brown families a century ago. I wanted to feel a little bit of victory today after a really hard last four years.”
The Lewis, Clark and Sacagaweastatue was given to Charlottesville in 1919. The Jackson statue has been up since 1921, and the Lee statue was first placed in 1924. They will be stored until the City Council decides to sell, destroy or otherwise dispose of them.
“This monument symbolizes a lot of things to our community," Niya Bates, 31, of Charlottesville, said. "So to see that baggage, literal baggage — all of the racism, the history of enslavement, the inequities in our community — picked up, put on a truck and taken out," was good.
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Under state law, the city was required to solicit parties interested in taking the statues during an offer period that ended Thursday. It received 10 responses to its solicitation.
White supremacist and neo-Nazi groups descended on Charlottesville in August 2017 for a violent "Unite the Right" rally to protest efforts to remove monuments to the infamous 19th-century military leaders.
The protests turned deadly after James Alex Fields Jr. killed 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist Heather Heyer.
Fields, an Ohio man known for being fascinated with Nazism and idolizing Adolf Hitler, drove his car into a group of counterprotesters. He's now serving a life sentence.
The most recent removal push focused on the Lee monument began in 2016, thanks in part to a petition started by a Black high school student, Zyahna Bryant, who's now a student at the University of Virginia.
"This is well overdue," Bryant told The Associated Press. "No platform for white supremacy. No platform for racism. No platform for hate."
Hampton reported from Charlottesville, Austin reported from London.