HELENA — Montana’s capital city on Friday removed a memorial to Confederate soldiers that has been in a public park since 1916 after officials deemed it a threat to public safety in light of last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A small group of people opposing the fountain’s removal in Helena had stood watch through the night. Police said two people were arrested, but later released, after defying orders to leave the site while crews began dismantling the granite fountain donated to the city more than a century ago by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
“We’re just trying to preserve this monument,” said Tony Crew, 28, who stood by with a huge American flag as city crews fenced off the fountain. “It’s part of our history, and we don’t need to follow the precedent of the rest of the country.”
Calls for removing the fountain in Helena’s Hill Park — and other Confederacy-related monuments across the country — increased after last weekend’s deadly confrontations at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
Earlier this week, Native American lawmakers in Montana sent a letter to the city requesting that it remove the fountain, which they said stood for segregation, secession and slavery. The memorial is thought to be the only Confederate monument in the upper Rockies.
The Helena City Commission agreed on Wednesday and acted swiftly to uproot the fountain from the park just two blocks from City Hall. Crews arrived shortly after 9 a.m. Friday. By early afternoon, it was lifted by crane onto a flatbed truck.
City Parks and Recreation Director Amy Teegarden said the fountain initially will be stored in a city warehouse.
“Our intention is to remove it in such a way that the fountain, and its pieces, can remain intact and be reassembled at a future date,” Teegarden said.
About 50 people, not all of them protesting the removal, gathered at the scene as a handful of police officers stood watch.
Angela Smith was visiting with her husband from Spokane, Washington and said she was a descendent of Union soldiers. Smith said it was time for such monuments across the country to come down.
“Do we have statues of Hitler? Do we need things like that to remember our history?” she asked.
One man, who declined to give his name, said the fountain was not a symbol of racism or hate but is part of American history that should not be forgotten.
“Somebody has to make a stand,” he shouted as city crews erected two rings of orange plastic fencing.
Tiffany Ivers, who was born in Texas but has lived most of her life in Helena, arrived with a Confederate flag.
“Taking down a monument that has nothing to do with what’s going on is not OK,” Ivers said.
Confederate monuments removed or vandalized across the US
A look at monuments that have been removed, covered up or vandalized in recent days:
A statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to African-Americans, was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House Friday and trucked away to storage. Three of four voting members of the State House Trust voted to move the bronze statue, which was erected in 1872.
The city began removing a granite fountain Friday that stood in a park as a monument to Confederate soldiers since 1916. One of a few people on hand to oppose the removal was detained when she defied orders to vacate the grounds of the fountain. She was later released.
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA
A statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee at Duke University was found defaced Thursday. The statue in the entryway to Duke Chapel had damage to its nose. Another monument of a Confederate soldier that stood in front of a government office building in town was pulled down by protesters Monday night. Four people have been arrested, and authorities say more arrests are planned. Earlier, two statues in Wilmington were defaced with spray paint.
A statue outside a courthouse dedicated to Confederate soldiers was vandalized. Obscenities and other graffiti were spray-painted on the 1908 monument sometime before dawn Thursday. The damage was repaired.
A plaque honoring confederate soldiers was removed Wednesday from a cemetery and a second monument will be taken down later. The plaque lauded “the valiant” Confederate soldiers buried there. Mayor Paul Soglin said the Civil War was “a defense of the deplorable practice of slavery.”
A Confederate monument outside Phoenix was found covered in tar and feathers on Thursday. Earlier, the Confederate Troops Memorial outside the Arizona Capitol was spray-painted white. It was the second time in a week that the memorial had been vandalized.
Plaques honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee were removed from the property of a now-closed Episcopal church in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also called on the Army to rename two streets at nearby Fort Hamilton that honored Lee and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
Four Confederacy-related monuments were hauled away on trucks under cover of darkness late Tuesday night and early Wednesday. Mayor Catherine Pugh said she was concerned that such statues might spark violence.
A 1914 monument honoring fallen Confederate soldiers was splattered with paint earlier this week. Opponents are signing a petition to have it removed from a neighborhood near the University of Tennessee campus.
A 52-foot-tall obelisk honoring Confederate soldiers and sailors was covered by wooden panels at the mayor’s order. The 1905 monument is in a downtown park. The cover-up Tuesday prompted a lawsuit by Alabama’s attorney general, who argues that it violates a new law prohibiting the removal of historical structures, including rebel memorials.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where many movie legends are interred, removed a 6-foot Confederate monument that was erected in 1925. The stone and attached plaque stood near the graves of more than 30 Confederate veterans and their families.
The city removed a plaque naming Confederate President Jefferson Davis from a downtown plaza Wednesday. The 1926 plaque honored San Diego as the Western terminus of the Jefferson Davis Highway between Virginia and California.
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