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 more.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died last Monday 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 after. 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 were removed in the last week.
After 22 years on the steps of Philadelphia’s Municipal Services Building, a statue of the city’s former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo was removed from its post across City Hall in Center City early Wednesday morning, according to CNN affiliate WPVI.
On Saturday, protesters appeared to tie ropes to the statue and started a fire at the statue’s base.
Rizzo served as Philadelphia’s mayor from 1972 to 1980. During his term, Rizzo was praised by supporters as tough on crime but accused by critics of discriminating against minorities, according to WPVI.
“The statue is a deplorable monument to racism, bigotry, and police brutality for members of the Black community, the LGBTQ community, and many others,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in an online statement. “The treatment of these communities under Mr. Rizzo’s leadership was among the worst periods in Philadelphia’s history.”
The statue was scheduled to be removed next year, according to WPVI. But on Tuesday, the mayor signed an order for the city managing director to immediately remove the statue, according to an online statement.
Now that the statue has been removed, it will be placed in secure storage by the Department of Public Property until a plan is developed to donate, relocate, or otherwise dispose of it, the statement said.
Demonstrators at Linn Park attempted remove a 115-year-old Confederate monument during a protest on Sunday.
But Birmingham 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 in a news conference on Monday.
About 90 miles south of Birmingham, demonstrators tore down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that stood in front of Lee High School in Montgomery on Monday, according to CNN affiliate WSFA.
The Montgomery Police Department 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 away to storage, according to WSFA.
A controversial statue of Edward Carnack, a former US senator and newspaper owner known for attacking civil rights advocates like Ida B. Wells, was carried away from the city’s capital grounds on Monday, according to CNN affiliate WKRN.
The removal came after demonstrators tore the monument down on Sunday.
Crews in historic Old Town Alexandria removed a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier named “Appomattox” on Tuesday morning.
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 yesterday that they would remove the statue this morning.”
While these statues across the country have been removed, dozens of other monuments and statues still remain — some now defaced with graffiti.
Virginia is home to more confederate commemorations than any other state, according to its governor, Ralph Northam, and on Thursday he vowed to do something about that.
Northam said he’s directing that the statue of Robert E. Lee, which sits in the state’s 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 of Mobile removed the statue of Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes from downtown Mobile overnight and took it to a secure location, Mobile Mayor Standy Stimpson said in a tweet.
Stimpson said the decision to remove that 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.”
And while the fate of several controversial statues throughout the country have been determined, monuments in Indiana, and in Roanoke and Norfolk, both in Virginia, remain, but plans are in motion for their removal.
Anti-racism protesters in England pulled down a statue of a 17th-century slave trader while demonstrating in solidarity with the US Black Lives Matter movement on Sunday.
The protesters in the city of Bristol, in southwest England, tied the bronze statue of Edward Colston with rope before toppling it to cheers from the surrounding crowd.
Demonstrators were later seen rolling the statue to the nearby harbor and throwing it into the River Avon.
The statue of Colston — who donated much of his fortune to charitable causes — had stood in Bristol’s city center since 1895 but had become increasingly controversial, with petitions created to demand its removal.