‘Like His Face Was Crying’
At a foundry last weekend, with fire blazing and anti-racist activists watching, the statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee that sparked the deadly 2017 Charlottesville white nationalist riot was cut into pieces and melted down to liquid brass.
The melting was the culmination of a years-long effort to remove the Confederate statue from downtown Charlottesville. The issue became a flashpoint in 2016, and sparked a deadly white nationalist riot a year later, in 2017, which resulted in the death of the counter-protester Heather Heyer and two police officers, whose helicopter crashed.
After a series of lawsuits, the statue was finally removed in 2021 to much fanfare. It had been sitting in a warehouse in an undisclosed location until even more lawsuits made their way through the justice system. Then, on 26 September this year, the final lawsuit ended. The statue could be melted down.
The Charlottesville City Council voted in 2021 to donate the statue to the heritage center, after it proposed a Swords into Plowshares project that would melt the statue and repurpose it into “public art that expresses the City’s values of inclusivity and racial justice,” according to the proposal submitted to the city.