History was made in Baltimore on Wednesday, as work crews removed Confederate monuments in the early morning hours. Catherine Pugh, Baltimore’s mayor, said the monuments were removed “quickly and quietly” in order to avoid any conflict or public disruption. Earlier in the week, protesters threatened to tear down some of the monuments themselves, including those dedicated to Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Pugh said there had been enough grandstanding and speeches. “Get it done,” she said.
Pugh’s predecessor, former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, commissioned a panel in 2015 to investigate how the city should handle their Confederate monuments. At that time, a heated national debate over the Confederacy’s flag and other symbols was underway. The panel’s recommendation was the removal of the Jackson and Lee memorials. After two years of indecision, this action was finally taken on Wednesday. “I’m not a person who takes a lot of time to get things done,” Pugh said. “I make quick decisions based on the facts.”
Renewed outcry for the removal of these monuments was a natural response to the recent conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia. In that city, white supremacists gathered to protest the removal of similar monuments on Saturday. One counter-protestor was killed and two police officers died during that conflict. Mayor Pugh cited her desire to avoid such tragedy as the motivation behind her decision. “My concern is for the safety and security of our people,” she said.
At this time it is uncertain what will replace the monuments. Pugh said on Wednesday that city leaders are considering a plaque which informs the public of the statues that were there and the reasons for their removal. Currently the monuments are empty pedestals. “I don’t know why they were put there,” Pugh said. “But I do know they’re offensive to many people in this nation.”
Many in Baltimore are praising Pugh for her decision. Brandon Scott, a Baltimore city councilman, said Mayor Pugh “showed tremendous leadership.” But critics of Pugh’s actions are speaking out as well. Carolyn Billups, a former representative of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Maryland, called the city “sneaky” for its decision to remove the monuments during the early morning hours on Wednesday. “Rats run at night,” Billups said. While she said she was saddened by the city’s actions, Billups did express relief that “at least the monuments were not torn down by angry mobs.”