USA

Why are confederates statues and symbols being removed in the USA?

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May at the hands of the police, a wave of reflection and new laws are seeing many statues being removed in the country.

Why are confederates statues and symbols being removed in the USA?
RORY DOYLE AFP

On Tuesday 1 July, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed a bill into law replacing the current state flag that includes a Confederate emblem, a gesture triggered by support across the United States to dismantle symbols of slavery and racism.

The removal of the flag, a long-simmering source of controversy in one of the breakaway Southern states that fought in the 1860's American Civil War, follows the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed while in police custody in Minnesota.

His death has sparked nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality, and revived demands for the removal of statues of Confederate leaders, Christopher Columbus and others considered symbols of racism and colonial oppression.

"I understand the need to commit the 1894 flag to history and find a banner that is a better emblem for all Mississippi," Reeves said in a televised address. "We must understand that all who want change are not attempting to erase history."

Boston removal

Meanwhile in Boston, officials have voted to remove "The Emancipation Group" statue depicting Abraham Lincoln and an enslaved Black man from a city square, saying its "reductive representation" of the slave made it unfit for public art.

The unanimous decision, by the Boston Art Commission, late on Tuesday followed a month of nationwide protests against racism that led to the toppling of Confederate monuments honouring figures from the pro-slavery side in the American Civil War.

The Commission said in a joint statement with Mayor Martin Walsh that it had not yet decided on a date for the removal of "The Emancipation Group statue," a replica of a statue in Washington, D.C. The Boston statue was installed in Park Square in 1879.

Mississippi removes Confederate emblem from state flagThe Mississippi state flag is flown at the state Capitol before being lowered and decommissioned, a day after a bill was signed into law that would replace the state flag that includes a Confederate emblem, in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S., July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Suzi Altman

Confederate monuments belong in museums

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said that Confederate monuments belong in museums, not public squares, but that it is best to remove them peacefully.

"Don't be surprised if someone pulls down the statue of Jefferson Davis," Biden said, referring to the president of the short-lived, pro-slavery Confederate States of America in the 19th century.

"It's better that they do not. ... It's always better to do it peacefully," the former vice president said.

Speaking to reporters in his home state of Delaware, Biden said elected officials in places where such statues exist have a "responsibility" to move them to a more suitable place, like a museum, where people can learn their history.

Earlier in June, a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was toppled in Richmond, Virginia, along with statues of Columbus in Boston, Miami and Virginia being vandalised.