Protesters demonstrating against the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed his knee on his neck, targeted Confederate monuments in multiple cities.
As tense protests swelled across the country Saturday into Sunday morning, monuments in Virginia, the Carolinas and Mississippi were defaced. The presence of Confederate monuments across the South — and elsewhere in the United States — has been challenged for years, and some of the monuments targeted were already under consideration for removal.
The words “spiritual genocide,” along with red handprints, were painted on the sides of a Confederate monument on the University of Mississippi campus Saturday, The Oxford Eagle reported. One person was arrested at the scene.
Ole Miss administrators, student leaders and faculty leaders have recommended moving the statue — installed in 1906 and a rallying point in 1962 for people who rioted to oppose the university’s court-ordered integration — from a central spot to a Civil War cemetery that’s in a more secluded location on campus, but the state College Board has delayed action.
Critics have said its display near the university’s main administrative building sends a signal that Ole Miss glorifies the Confederacy and glosses over the South’s history of slavery.
In Charleston, South Carolina, protesters defaced a Confederate statue near The Battery, a historic area on the coastal city’s southern tip. The base of the Confederate Defenders statue, erected in 1932, was spray-painted, including with the words “BLM” and “traitors,” news outlets reported. It was later covered with tarp, photos show.
In North Carolina, the base of a Confederate monument at the State Capitol was marked with a black X and a shorthand for a phrase expressing contempt for police, according to a photo posted by a News & Observer journalist to social media. The word “racist” was also marked on the monument, the newspaper reported.
The question of Confederate monuments has been especially contentious in North Carolina, where such monuments are generally protected by law.
A nearly two-year battle was waged over the fate of the “Silent Sam” statue after it was toppled by protesters at the University of North Carolina’s flagship Chapel Hill campus in 2018. A legal agreement reached last November handed over the statue to a group of Confederate descendants, keeping it off campus. A Confederate statue outside a Durham courthouse was also torn down by protesters.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper had asked for the three Confederate monuments on the grounds of the Capitol to be moved to a nearby battlefield; a state historical panel voted in 2018 to keep the statues, but add context about slavery and civil rights. Statues in Winston-Salem and Chatham County were removed last year in rare moves.
But the state where the debate over Confederate monuments has perhaps attracted the most attention is Virginia, where a 2017 white nationalist rally over Charlottesville’s proposed removal of such monuments turned deadly.
In the coastal city of Norfolk, protesters climbed a Confederate monument and spray-painted graffiti on its base, according to photos posted by a Virginian-Pilot journalist. Norfolk is among the Virginia cities that have signaled intent to remove their Confederate monuments. In February, state lawmakers approved legislation that would give cities autonomy to do so.