COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Despite a monument conservation law in South Carolina, officials in the historic city of Charleston announced on Wednesday that they plan to remove a statue of slavery advocate John C. Calhoun from a downtown plaza.
Mayor John Tecklenburg announced that he will send a resolution to the city council to remove the statue during a press conference on the fifth anniversary of the murder of eight black church members and their predecessor in Dylann Roof’s racist attack on a church in downtown Charleston. The move comes as monuments to Confederates, and other historical figures who oppressed or oppressed other people are removed across the country.
“What a wonderful statement of support from our city council,” said Tecklenburg, adding that he was delighted that so many people came together in an effort to “not erase our long and often tragic history, but start writing a new and more just future. ” The mayor expected the statue to go to a local museum or educational institution.
The next meeting of the Charleston City Council is scheduled for Tuesday.
Dozens of protesters tied the weapon around the monument on Wednesday night, shouting, “Take it down!” Video posted on Twitter also showed drawing and spray painting the monument. Police said they were making vandalism arrests and would later provide details.
After the 2015 church shooting, many conservative Republican lawmakers gathered to remove the Southern flag from the Statehouse lawn in Columbia. But a few days later, Republican House Speaker Jay Lucas said no more monuments would be moved or removed during his tenure.
Lucas kept his word, even as other killings of African Americans swept through the province and monuments fell. Charleston is trying to get the Calhoun statue through the law, saying that the city owns the statue instead of the state and that it is on private, not public, land.
Several black legislators are urging local governments and colleges to act themselves and defy the 2000 Monument Protection Act because it contains no sanctions and has not been brought to justice.
On Tuesday, Mother Emanuel’s current pastor stood before civil rights activists and politicians calling for the removal of the Calhoun statue, a 30-meter-high (30-meter-high) monument to Francis Marion Square in the heart of the city.
Calhoun’s support for slavery continued. And in an 1836 speech to the United States Senate, he said that slaves in the South were better off than free blacks in the North.
Reverend Nelson Rivers said Calhoun represents “Dylann Roof for us.”
“The time has come to acknowledge not only your racist, bad, bad past. It’s time to destroy the monuments that honor the evil done in the name of Charleston, in the name of South Carolina, “Rivers said at the foot of Calhoun’s statue on Tuesday.
The 2015 Confederate Flag debate was the last time the General Assembly called up a 2000 law called the Heritage Act, which protects all historical monuments and building names.
Tecklenburg said the move is not covered by the Heritage Act, noting that the Calhoun Memorial is not in public areas or commemorating any of the historical events mentioned in the Act. According to the National Parks Service, the city technically rents the land where the monument stands and “will remain open forever as a parade ground for the Sumter Guards and the Washington Light Infantry.”
“This council before you today has full authority to order its relocation to an environment where it can be placed in full historical context,” said Tecklenburg. “And it will be kept and protected in another place where the full story of history can be told.”
It remains to be seen whether Tecklenburg’s interpretation is disputed. A two-thirds vote of the general assembly of the state is required to make changes under the Heritage Act. That is an arduous task in a state where conservative Republicans dominate the House and the Senate.
House speaker Lucas has not responded to repeated interview requests and ask if his position has changed.
However, the pressure is increasing. Clemson University trustees voted Friday to ask the General Assembly to change the name of Tillman Hall, a main campus building named after “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman.
Tillman gained fame by supporting a white crowd who killed four black men in 1876 after they surrendered. He later became the Governor of South Carolina and a United States Senator, committed to destroying all of the rights that blacks obtained after the Civil War.
The President of the University of South Carolina wants legislators to have the school remove the name J. Marion Sims from a female dormitory. Sims is honored as the father of modern gynecology, but performed experimental treatment on slaves without anesthesia.
Sims and Tillman also have statues on the Statehouse lawn. Some African-American lawmakers want to add plaques explaining their racist views. Others, such as Rep. Justin Bamberg, want them to be gone.
“I don’t like seeing” Pitchfork “Ben Tillman every day I go to the Statehouse,” said the Democrat. “He bravely and proudly supported my people.”
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP and Meg Kinnard at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.
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