President Donald Trump railed against the movement to remove "beautiful" Confederate statues and monuments in cities across the country Thursday, tweeting that it was "foolish." He said he was sad to see the “history and culture” of the country being “ripped apart."
“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” the president wrote on Twitter. “You can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”
“Also, the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
The tweets come after local officials across the country have ramped up efforts to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces following the violent clash between counter-protesters and white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, which left 19 injured and one dead.
Officials in Lexington, Kentucky; Baltimore; New York City and Virginia, among other places, have moved to take down statues, monuments and plaques memorializing figures of the Confederacy.
At a freewheeling press conference on Tuesday, Trump said "both sides" deserved equal blame for the violence and that not all the torch-wielding marchers — who shouted "Jews will not replace us" and Nazi slogans — were Nazis or white supremacists.
“There are two sides to a story," the president said Tuesday. "I thought what took place was a horrible moment for the country, but there are two sides to a story."
"You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now."
The president's remarks were in stark contrast to his Monday statement, where he condemned the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and received swift rebuke from lawmakers on both sides. But what he said at Trump Tower reiterated his widely-criticized statement from over the weekend, in which he blamed "many sides" for the violence.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh told reporters Wednesday that she directed city officials to "quickly and quietly" cart away four Confederate monuments in the city on public property, including statues of Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
"I felt that the best way was to remove them overnight," Pugh said. "I thought that enough speeches have been made about this. I didn't think I needed to do a big speech about why."
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also pushed to remove a statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, who authored the landmark 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision that said blacks were not considered American citizens and the federal government couldn't regulate slavery.
Jack Christian and Warren Christian, great-great grandsons of Jackson, penned an open letter published on Slate calling for the removal of monuments to their ancestor in Richmond, Virginia.
"They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display," they wrote.