The death of George Floyd is leading to the removal – by protesters in some cases and city leaders in others – of contentious statues that have riled some residents for decades, if not longer.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died on May 25 in Minneapolis. While being arrested, Floyd was held down by a Minneapolis police officer’s knee for more than eight minutes. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward. His death, which was captured on video, sparked widespread protests across the US, with people calling for an end to police brutality against people of color.
Controversial monuments, especially Confederate monuments, have been the subject of nationwide debate, particularly since Dylann Roof killed nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015 in an effort to “start a race war.”
And it flared up again after white nationalists marched in 2017 to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counterprotester was killed amid violent clashes between demonstrators.
Some say they mark history and honor heritage. Others argue they are racist symbols of America’s dark legacy of slavery. While some cities have already made efforts to remove them, others have passed laws to protect them.
Here’s a look at some of the monuments that have been removed over the past few weeks.
On July 1, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney ordered the immediate removal of several confederate statues in a video to the public.
“These statues, although symbolic, have cast a shadows on the dreams of our children of color,” Stoney said. “Let me be clear, removing these monuments is not a solution to the deeply embedded racial injustices in our city and nation, but is a down payment.”
The work started with the statue of General Stonewall Jackson, according to CNN affiliate WWBT.
The mayor said all of the statues that are being removed over the next several days will be put into storage for now.
“Jefferson Davis was a racist & traitor who fled our city as his troops carried out orders to burn it to the ground,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said in a tweet June 11. “He never deserved to be up on that pedestal. July 1, we will begin the process the state requires to remove these monuments to the Old Richmond of a Lost Cause.”
He asked for the sake of public safety that the community allow the city to legally take down the remaining statues professionally.
“I will push for us to waste no time on this and to make it happen as soon as possible,” Stoney said in his tweet. “Richmond, we will finish the job of removing these antiquated symbols of racism and hate.”
It came a day after protesters vandalized and tore down a statue of Christopher Columbus using ropes at Byrd Park.
Charleston, South Carolina
Crews in Charleston removed a statue of politician John C. Calhoun from its pedestal in Marion Square on June 24.
Calhoun, a former vice president of the United States and US senator, is known for defending slavery and owning about 80 slaves himself. A Clemson University biography called him an ardent believer in white supremacy.
Charleston City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution for the removal on Tuesday night, according to CNN affiliate WCSC.
The top of a Confederate monument in downtown Norfolk was removed by the city, according to an online statement.
A statue of a soldier known as Johnny Reb was lifted off its pedestal and taken away. The bottom part of the monument is scheduled to be removed in August, according to CNN affiliate WTKR.
On June 11, Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander announced plans to remove the statue and a day later it was removed. Alexander said at the time that the statue’s “continued presence could lead to injury or violence and therefore must be immediately removed.”
The City of Norfolk said it will hold a public hearing July 7 to determine where the monument will go.
Protesters partially dismantled the town’s Confederate monument, even completely removing one of the statues on June 10. A man was hit by the statue and went to the hospital with life threatening injuries, according to Virginia State Police at the time.
Mayor John L. Rowe, Jr. said in a statement that Portsmouth Police did the right thing in confining the vandalism to the one piece of public property, so as to protect lives and the remaining private property in the area.
The issue of moving or removing the entire monument will be addressed at a public hearing July 28, the mayor said.
The John Breckinridge Castleman monument, a statue of a Confederate soldier in the heart of downtown, was removed on June 8, according to an online statement from Mayor Greg Fischer.
Fischer initially announced plans to remove the Castleman monument in August 2018. After a two-year effort to move the statue, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge said June 5 that the city was able to move the Castleman monument.
“We all agree with the report’s finding that our city must not maintain statues that serve as validating symbols for racist or bigoted ideology – that’s why we relocated the Confederate statue near the University of Louisville,” Fischer said in 2016.
In announcing his decision to move the Castleman statue and another Confederate soldier statue in 2018, Fischer rejected the idea that moving them was an effort to erase history. “Moving these statues,” he said, “allows us to examine our history in a new context that more accurately reflects the reality of the day, a time when the moral deprivation of slavery is clear.”
The statue will eventually make its way to Cave Hill Cemetery, where Castleman is buried, according to the online statement.
Crews in Hemming Park in downtown Jacksonville took down a 122-year-old statue and plaque that honored fallen Confederate soldiers on June 9, according to CNN affiliate WJAX.
During a peaceful protest on the steps of City Hall earlier in the month, Mayor Lenny Curry announced that all Confederate monuments citywide would be removed. This includes three monuments and eight historical markers, the mayor’s office told CNN in a statement.
“If our history prevents us from reaching the full potential of our future, then we need to take action,” Curry said. “My staff will work with the Jacksonville Cultural Council to convene experts in history and art to ensure we acknowledge our past in a full and complete way; a way forward that leaves no person’s heritage or experience behind.”
Demonstrators at Linn Park attempted to remove a 115-year-old monument during a protest on May 31.
Mayor Randall Woodfin arrived at the scene, telling the demonstrators he would “finish the job” for them.
The city’s mayor pleaded with demonstrators to disperse before police came to make arrests, adding that he understood their anger.
The park houses memorials dedicated to veterans and a statue of Confederate sailor Charles Linn.
Woodfin did not specify when exactly the monument would come down.
“In order to prevent more civil unrest in our city, I think it is very imperative that we remove this statue that’s in Linn Park,” he said at a news conference June 1.
About 54 miles west at the University of Alabama, The Board of Trustees and the university’s president, Stuart Bell, authorized the removal of three plaques on the campus that commemorate University of Alabama students who served in the Confederate army and members of the student cadet corps involved in defending the campus, according to an online statement.
The plaques were in front of Gorgas Library but were removed and “placed at a more appropriate historical setting on the recommendation of Dr. Bell,” a university spokesperson told CNN.
Additionally, a group of the university’s trustees are set to to review and study the names of buildings on all UA System campuses.
About 90 miles south of Birmingham, demonstrators tore down a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee that stood in front of Lee High School in Montgomery on June 1, according to CNN affiliate WSFA.
Montgomery police told WSFA that four people have been charged with first-degree criminal mischief, a felony.
The 112-year-old statue was housed in two other locations in Montgomery before coming to the grounds of Lee High School, according to the school’s website.
It was taken off school property and hauled to storage, according to WSFA.
A controversial statue of Edward Carmack, a former US senator and newspaper owner known for attacking civil rights advocates like Ida B. Wells, was carried away from the city’s Capitol grounds on June 1, according to CNN affiliate WKRN.
The removal came after demonstrators tore the monument down the previous weekend.
A week after Carmack’s statue was removed, singer Taylor Swift posted a series of tweets detailing the histories of Carmack and Nathan Bedford, calling on Tennessee officials to stop “fighting for these monuments.”
“Taking down statues isn’t going to fix centuries of systemic oppression, violence and hatred that black people have had to endure but it might bring us one small step closer to making ALL Tennesseans and visitors to our state feel safe – not just the white ones,” she wrote.
Crews in historic Old Town Alexandria removed a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier named “Appomattox” on June 2.
The memorial was erected in 1889 to honor Confederate soldiers from the Virginia city.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson tweeted photos of the statue’s removal. “Alexandria, like all great cities, is constantly changing and evolving,” he wrote.
A spokesperson for the city told CNN in a statement that the owner of the statue, United Daughters of the Confederacy, notified the city and said they would remove the statue on June 2.
Virginia is home to more Confederate commemorations than any other state, according to its governor, Ralph Northam.
Northam said he’s directing that the statue of Robert E. Lee, which sits in the capital of Richmond, be taken down and moved into storage while a decision is made on its future.
“In Virginia, we no longer preach a false version of history,” Northam wrote in a tweet. “America is once again looking to Virginia to lead. And make no mistake – removing a symbol is important, but it’s only a step. We still need change in this country. We need healing most of all. But symbols matter. We all know it’s time. And history will prove that.”
The city removed the statue of Confederate Adm. Raphael Semmes from downtown and took it to a secure location, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a tweet on June 5.
The monument was moved from a storage facility to the History Museum of Mobile on June 14, Stimpson posted on Facebook.
Stimpson said the decision to remove the statue was not about Semmes or an attempt to rewrite history.
“It is about removing a potential distraction so we may focus clearly on the future of our city,” Stimpson wrote. “That conversation, and the mission to create one Mobile, continues today.”
The Jefferson Davis statue that stood in the Kentucky Capitol rotunda was removed June 13, Gov. Andy Beshear tweeted.
The statue was in the building since 1936. Five years ago, Frankfort officials voted to get rid of the statue, but ended up just removing the bronze plaque that was displayed in the front.
The statue will be relocated to the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site in Fairview, according to CNN affiliate WKYT.
A crowd gathered in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur on June 18 to watch the removal of a Confederate monument – the latest controversial symbol toppled in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
A DeKalb County judge the previous week ordered the relocation of the the 30-foot obelisk at Decatur Square after the city argued it had become a threat to public safety during recent protests. He wanted it removed by midnight June 26 and placed in storage until further notice.
As a large crane pulled down the obelisk just before midnight, people chanted, “Take it down! Take it down!” Others applauded.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Protesters removed two statues from the North Carolina Confederate monument at the state Capitol in Raleigh on June 19.
The first was brought down by a strap wrapped around the statue’s neck, and the second was knocked down on the other side of the monument. Protesters then continued marching and hung both statues from a street light post.
City crews began working on removing the rest of the 75-foot North Carolina Confederate monument on June 20 following Gov. Roy Cooper’s order for removal.
“I have ordered the Confederate monuments on the Capitol grounds be moved to protect public safety,” Cooper said in a statement to CNN affiliate WTVD. “I am concerned about the dangerous efforts to pull down and carry off large, heavy statues and the strong potential for violent clashes at the site.”
“Monuments to white supremacy don’t belong in places of allegiance, and it’s past time that these painful memorials be moved in a legal, safe way.”
In Washington, DC, protesters toppled a statue of Albert Pike in the Judiciary Square neighborhood June 19, according to CNN affiliate WJLA.
Pike was a senior officer of the Confederate States Army.
Bristol, United Kingdom
While there are several Confederate monuments sprinkled throughout the country, protesters across the pond are pushing for the removal of controversial landmarks as well.
Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol, pulled down a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston on June 7 and rolled it through the streets before dumping it, unceremoniously, into the River Avon.
Britain’s towns and cities are dotted with monuments to figures like Colston.
On June 9, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a commission to examine the future of landmarks around the capital, including murals, street art, street names and statues.
CNN’s Amanda Jackson, Kaylene Chassie, Travis Nichols, Jack Guy, Carma Hassan, Jennifer Henderson and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.