Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington, Kentucky, has announced he will take steps to move statues of two Confederate generals located at the former Fayette County Courthouse in the aftermath of Saturday’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Gray said he had planned to announce the decision next week but did so on Saturday because of what he called “the tragic events in Charlottesville,” which he said “remind us that we must bring our country together by condemning violence, white supremacists and Nazi hate groups.”
I am taking action to relocate the Confederate statues. We have thoroughly examined this issue, and heard from many of our citizens.
— Mayor Jim Gray (@JimGrayLexKY) August 12, 2017
Three people died in connection with the white nationalist rally. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed by a car that plowed into the crowd, while Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40, died in a Virginia State Police helicopter crash. More than a dozen people were injured in the car crash in Charlottesville, where both the city government and Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared states of emergency.
On Tuesday, Gray will ask the Lexington-Fayette County Urban County Council to support his petition to the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission to remove the statues.
If his petition is successful, the statues of Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan and Maj. Gen. John Cabell Breckinridge will be relocated to Veterans Park, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
White supremacists, neo-Nazis and alt-right activists planned the “Unite the Right” rally in response to Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, formerly named Lee Park.
Debates over the public display of Confederate symbols, including statues and flags, have taken place across the United States recently, particularly in southern states.
In 2015, South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol. That same year, Alabama removed the flag from a Confederate memorial on state house grounds, in part a response to the shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, that killed nine people.
While supporters of the removal of such monuments decry Confederate symbols as representative of racist hatred, others argue that they should continue to be on public display as remnants of Southern heritage.