After a protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee turned violent in Virginia this past weekend, state and city leaders in the former Confederacy questioned whether to keep similar statues at their capitols, court houses and public parks.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Tuesday afternoon joined that chorus after hearing from citizens speaking before City Council. Turner directed his staff to compile an inventory of the statues honoring the Confederacy and provide recommendations on actions, if any, the city should take.
"It is my hope that we can, in a very positive and constructive way, move forward," Turner said in a statement.
His announcement came two days after a petition began circulating urging Houston to remove a monument, called "The Spirit Of The Confederacy," from Sam Houston Park. That statue depicts a winged man with a sword and is dedicated “To all heroes of the South who fought for the Principles of States Rights." It was erected in 1908 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Texas was one of 11 states that waged a failed rebellion against the United States. Though the war ended in 152 years ago, hundreds of monuments to the Confederacy still dot the Southern landscape.
This past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, a group of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan protested the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Brawls broke out between that group and hundreds of counter-protesters, which turned deadly when an Ohio man drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Heather Heyer, a Charlottesville paralegal, was killed.
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Public officials in Maryland and other states have questioned whether to remove Confederate monuments in their states. In North Carolina, angry citizens took it upon themselves to tear down a Confederate statue in Durham on Tuesday.
Even before the mayhem in Charlottesville, cities across the South were reconsidering their stance on Confederate memorials in the wake of the 2015 massacre of black churchgoers during a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. As in Charlottesville, the attacker was a white supremacist.
In May, New Orleans decided to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee that had stood for more than 130 years. In a widely circulated speech the day Lee's statue was moved, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said there is a difference between remembering the Confederacy and celebrating it.
"These statues are not just stone and metal," Landrieu said. "They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for."