The Chatter

Debate Over Confederate Statues Continues in Baltimore

Mayor Pugh and city residents call for removal of Confederate monuments.

*Update following the August 14 Baltimore City Council meeting: Councilman Brandon M. Scott introduced a measure to have all Confederate-era monuments throughout the city destroyed. The council unanimously voted to adopt Scott’s resolution calling for the immediate destruction of the monuments.

“We should not have these here for public display,” Scott said during the meeting. “We should not move them somewhere else for public display because it is still disrespectful.”

Despite the decision made by the city council members, Mayor Catherine Pugh is still taking the necessary steps to remove and relocate the statues to Confederate cemeteries in Hagerstown and Scotland, Maryland. 

This past weekend, violent clashes at a white nationalist rally to protest the removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia ended with three deaths and 19 people injured. Baltimore is no stranger to this issue and the events further ignited local residents in the effort to cut ties with the city’s Confederate roots.

In an effort organized by Baltimore Bloc, more than 1,000 people marched in a peaceful protest from Wyman Park to Charles Village and back on Sunday to denounce the violence and bigotry represented in Charlottesville, as well as protest various Confederate monuments throughout the city.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said that she has reached out to contractors to have the monuments of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on Wyman Park Drive, Confederate Soldiers and Sailors in Bolton Hill, Confederate Women near the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus, and Roger B. Taney in Mt. Vernon removed.

“It is my intention to move forward with the removal of Baltimore City’s Confederate statues,” Mayor Pugh said in a statement. “I have read the recommendations of the task force set up by the previous administration which were reported in January 2016.”

The recommendations made by seven commissioners, appointed by former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, was a 34-page report detailing the history of each statue, concluding that two of the monuments—the Lee-Jackson statue and Taney bust—should be removed instead of destroyed.  The commission also voted to keep, but add context to, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors and Confederate Women’s monuments.

Councilman Brandon M. Scott has also called for the Confederate-era memorials to be destroyed. He plans to introduce new legislation at today’s city council meeting for the immediate destruction of the monuments.

“There’s no need to even discuss whether we should have a Confederate monument in the city of Baltimore,” Scott said. “Why are we honoring traitors? They should have never been erected. We should destroy them now.”

Before Rawlings-Blake left office last year, signage was placed at the Confederate monument sites stating, in part, that the memorials were “part of a propaganda campaign of national pro-Confederate organizations to perpetuate the beliefs of white supremacy, falsify history, and support segregation and racial intimidation.”

Opponents of the monuments’ removal include the Maryland chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Zebelean and SCV member last year referred to the local and national effort to remove Confederate statues as “a veritable tsunami of anti-Confederate vitriol . . . In Baltimore, the mayor plans for a commission to advise her on what to do with the Confederate monuments, most of which have been there for more than a century.”

For its part, the national chapter of the SCV denounced the actions of the white supremacist groups in Charlottesville this past weekend. “I condemn in the strongest possible way the actions, words, and beliefs of the KKK and white supremacist groups,” said SCV’s chaplain-in-chief. “These groups are filled with hatred and bigotry. They do not represent in any way true Southern heritage.”

As for Baltimore, Mayor Pugh has suggested taking steps beyond what the original monument commission recommended, although her plans come with a substantial price tag. After meeting with Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, who removed four Confederate monuments in May, Pugh learned that the cost for re locating four statues totaled $2.1 million, which included the actual removal, police overtime, and storage cost.

“I have taken steps to appoint a working group to lead the process for removing the confederate monuments,” she said. “I am adding two members from the private sector to help us with the fundraising. Anyone wishing to contribute can forward their contribution to the Baltimore City Foundation/Confederate Monument Removal.”

Pugh has also formally requested approval from the Maryland Historical Trust Easement Committee to remove the Lee-Jackson monument, as well as identify Confederate cemeteries in Maryland that would be willing to accept the monuments upon removal. She plans to provide a public update after receiving reports from the task force and contractors. At that time, she will also announce a timeline for the removal of the monuments.

“A decision will be made at an appropriate time,” her spokesman, Anthony McCarthy, said in a statement. “She wants to do what serves the best interests of the citizens of Baltimore.”