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Will the George Floyd protests finally bring down America’s racist monuments?

Protesters have brought two Confederate monuments to the ground. 770 more to go.

Will the George Floyd protests finally bring down America’s racist monuments?
A statue of confederate navy captain Charles Linn lies toppled on June 1st, 2020. [Photo: Jay Reeves/AP/Shutterstock]
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This week, construction workers removed Confederate monuments in two major Southern U.S. cities following local protests. It’s just the latest example of how Americans are rethinking monuments that pay tribute to the nation’s racist history.

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Dozens of protesters marched on Linn Park in Birmingham, Alabama, Sunday night to protest the murder of George Floyd. Demonstrators spray-painted and chipped away at the Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument inside the park, a strange, 52-foot-tall Egyptian-inspired obelisk built in 1905 to commemorate the death of Confederate soldiers. They also tied ropes around it in attempts to topple the statue.

Linn Park in 2017. [Photo: Hal Yeager/Getty Images]
Protesters ultimately failed to bring down the obelisk, but they succeeded in toppling a statue commemorating Confederate Navy captain Charles Linn nearby. And Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin ordered the removal of the obelisk in outward defiance of the Alabama Monuments Preservation Act, a Republican-driven policy enacted in 2017, to protect Confederate monuments. The act has prevented the mayor from removing the monument in the past, but workers began to dismantle the obelisk Monday night.

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Another monument came down following a week of protests in Alexandria, Virginia. While it appears no one defaced the monument yet, the United Daughters of the Confederacy removed the 131-year-old bronze statue of a Confederate soldier known as “Appomattox,” whose back is pointedly turned toward the north. The United Daughters of the Confederacy owns the statue and has since moved it to an undisclosed location.

Meanwhile, in cities across the United States, protesters have defaced many Confederate monuments that are still standing. You can see a list of those monuments here. Between 2015 and 2018, cities and organizations removed 47 Confederate monuments—but another 772 remain intact, installed in public spaces around the U.S., according to a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Conservatives argue that these monuments are part of our nation’s history and, as such, they should be protected no matter what they represent.

It’s worth noting that there were only 11 states in the Confederacy during the Civil War. That means we have 70 monuments for every one of the Confederate states, each dedicated to glorifying the completely wrong side of history.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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