DC Activists Push National Park Service To Remove Civil War Statue

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Above Photo: By John Zangas

Washington, D.C. — Civil rights activists from several groups rallied at the statue of Civil War general Albert Pike Friday afternoon, demanding the U.S. Park Service immediately take it down. Speakers told the history of General Pike and related how such a statue on federal land symbolizes racism, White supremacy and oppression. About 100 joined in the rally.

During the rally, someone threw red paint on its granite base but was not arrested. The water-based paint trickled down the base as a heavy storm hit. Park Police attempted to wash off the paint but were only partially successful.

The Alfred Pike statue has stood near the Federal Appeals Court since 1902, sandwiched between several elms and blending in, because its has a moss-green surface from over 115 years of weathering. And it would have continued standing almost unnoticed had it not been for the Charlottesville terror attack a week ago Saturday.

That attack happened right after police ended a Neo-Nazi and White supremacist protest of the planned removal of a Civil War statue of General Robert E. Lee. The protest turned violent when nationalists charged into counterprotesters, swinging clubs and shooting mace. WATCH: James Alex Fields, Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, one of the White Nationalists, drove his car through a group of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19. The fallout from her killing has galvanized the movement against White supremacy in way not seen since the 1960s.

As the only statue in Washington, D.C. commemorating a Civil War General, the Pike Memorial has become a local lightning rod of resistance as pressure builds to remove such Civil War relics from public parks across the country..

These statues represent a period when White supremacy was codified in law and accepted in both social and political circles. But D.C. activists are putting pressure on local and federal government to end the Pike Memorial 115-year presence under the elms. They say it is a throwback to an oppressive ideology of White supremacy.

Carlos McKnight, a student from a local college, told the Civil War history of Albert Pike. “We are here to send a message to the city and federal government that we want the Albert Pike Memorial removed from federal land,” said McKnight, a rally organizer. “Look at the symbolism: a man who fought vigorously to preserve slavery gets a statue in a neighborhood dedicated to justice and law.” McKnight pointed out that when it comes to justice it is often that “people of color get the worst end of the stick.”

As an example, McNight pointed out that activists who removed a statue of a Civil War soldier in Durham early this week were prosecuted within 24 hours, but in Charlottesville White Nationalists were allowed to march with torches and chant Nazi slogans. “When you see someone who wants to remove a trophy to racism but are arrested in 24 hours but see someone able to march around in the street in Charlottesville with a tiki torch and say ‘blood and soil’ and ‘white lives matter,’ that is wrong and that is what institutionalized racism is in this country,” he said.

Franklin Garcia, shadow Congressman for D.C., said that people were becoming more aware of what they needed to do in their communities and that some good had come out of the chaos across the country. “This is the land of the free, so everybody should have an opportunity to be heard,” he said. He mentioned that earlier in the day another Civil War era statue had come down in Annapolis.

“What this symbolizes is hatred, and we need to grow out of that,” said Garcia. He blamed the divisive racial situation squarely on the Trump administration. “[Trump] is trying to cater to his base, and in the process of doing that he’s hurting a lot of people,” said Garcia.

  • DHFabian

    The Civil War began 156 years ago, and last for four years. The Reconstruction Era overlapped, going from 1863 to 1877. 2017, and we suddenly see a revolt to remove statues of those from that era, sometimes with little knowledge of the people represented by those statues. It’s this latter point that’s disturbing.

    Honoring the memory of those who fought for slavery is unacceptable. But at the same time, we must be very careful to avoid the human inclination to rewrite or bury our own history. As they say, those who forget their own history tend to repeat it.

  • kevinzeese

    I don’t know anyone advocating erasing US history, people just not want to see people glorified who fought for their right to own black people. In fact, the goal is really to clarify history and be accurate about it. We do not want to forget it and we do not want to repeat it.

  • This whole thing isn’t really about statues of dead traitors to the US (err….I mean, dead Confederate soldiers). It is entirely about people standing up to a particularly toxic group of entitled middle class and rich white male bullies demanding their “right” to remain at the top of the socio-economic food chain at the expense of the human rights and lives of the poor, of women, and especially of black Americans.

    Those statues were not erected until long after the Civil War ended and most of the Civil War vets had died. They were built in defiance of blacks attempting to gain the same civil and human rights for themselves that middle class and rich white men automatically got handed to them on a silver platter. They were built specifically as a huge “Fuck you” to blacks, Jews, and anyone else who felt that black people deserved an equal opportunity for jobs, housing, and the right to vote without having to pay poll taxes or submit to literacy tests that even most white people were incapable of passing themselves (but were not forced to submit to in order to be able to vote).

    The loud and proud Nazi thugs who brandished riot shields, wearing Stahlhelm helmets, carrying assault rifles and automatic pistols and marched with Tiki torches screaming Nazi chants of “Blood and soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!” terrorizing the local citizens of Charlottesville (an armed Nazi contingency actually surrounded a local synagogue, while congregants were inside observing Shabbos) were largely a relatively privileged lot. All those guns and ammo they had/have costs a LOT of money. Ditto for the WW II Nazi war helmets many were wearing. Plus travel and motel room stays and food on the road isn’t cheap.

    Those Nazis responded to the call for help from other bona fide white male supremacist groups that are, in fact, hate groups with a history of violence and terrorism against blacks (League of the South, Heritage Preservation Association, Sons of Confederate Veterans, etc.) who were pissed off that they were vastly outvoted by the rest of the citizenry who lawfully petitioned their local government for the removal of those statues.

    And these Nazi terrorists – who really don’t give a shit about dead Confederate soldiers, or preserving any kind of accurate record of history (Nazis have a long-standing tradition of burning books) – traveled to Charlottesville from across the US while the majority of people in this country of ANY race do not have the money to afford to travel across their own state, let alone across the country. These White Male Supremacists don’t give a Hoover’s Dam about poor whites who don’t have homes and who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They just use poor whites as a a convenient poster child to attempt to give themselves some legitimacy when they don’t speak for us, don’t do ANYTHING for us – especially not for poor white women, poor white disabled people, etc. They are opportunistic terrorists with a boatload of privilege who needed to have their shit factory shut down a long time ago.

    Lastly, we have plenty of history books available, as well as encyclopedias and oral history projects, that people can turn to if they want to know who those dead Confederates were. Just like we have plenty of history books and other sources available to us to let us know who Reinhard Galen, Josef Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, and Adolf Hitler were. You won’t find any Nazi flags, statues or other memorials to dead Nazis in Berlin (or anyplace else in Germany). There’s a reason for that.