June 20 (UPI) — Amid ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, demonstrators toppled several statues of Confederate figures and others deemed racist overnight.
A Confederate statue in Washington, D.C., was among those ripped down Friday night.
Protesters toppled the outdoor statue of Confederate Gen. Albert Pike by ripping it down with rope and later set it ablaze as law enforcement watched.
Pike, who was memorialized in a 27-foot-tall bronze and marble monument in Judiciary Square, was a northerner, but fought for the Confederacy as a brigadier general, championing the South’s secession. After the Civil War, he supported the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry that commissioned the statue in the early 20th century.
“The D.C. Police are not doing their job as they watch a statue be ripped down and burn,” President Donald Trump tweeted. “These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our country! @MayorBowser”
Trump tagged D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in the tweet, who also authorized painting a street near the White House with the words “Black Lives Matter” in huge yellow letters. The move was a rebuke to Trump for clearing peaceful protesters to stage what critics said amounted to a photo op at a church near the White House.
The protesters were calling for police reform in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black men, while he was in police custody on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill on Memorial Day. A Minneapolis police officer was fired and charged with murder for Floyd’s death.
Controversy over the Pike statue had been brewing since the 2017 Unite the Right rally in which self-avowed white nationalists and members of the far right sought to protect the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va. Self-identified white supremacist James Alex Fields plowed his car into counter protesters during the rally, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring 35 people.
In the wake of Charlottesville, Ronald Seale, a leader of the Washington-based Scottish Rite, agreed to the Pike statue’s removal as it had become a “source of contention or strife.”
More recently, U.S. House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., introduced legislation seeking its removal since it would require federal approval, but the bill hasn’t advanced.
The statue is one of several that have come tumbling down in recent weeks amid ongoing BLM protests. Many were brought down Friday night.
Five statues have been taken down in Richmond, Va. The latest is the First Virginia Regiment Monument, a memorial to a state militia regiment formed in 1754 before the Revolutionary War.
The four other statues torn down include Confederate President Jefferson Davis on Monument Avenue, Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham in Monroe Park, Christopher Columbus in Byrd Park and Richmond Howitzers Monument at the corner of Harrison Street and Grove Avenue.
In Raleigh, N.C., protesters removed two Confederate statues Friday night. One was of a cavalryman, which they later hanged by its neck from a streetlight. The other, of an artillery man, was dragged through the streets to the Wake County courthouse, where police later carried it away.
In California, protesters ripped down two statues in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. One statue toppled near the park’s de Young Museum was of slave-owner Francis Scott Key, composer of “The Star Spangled Banner,” in 1814. The other in the park’s music concourse, was of Junipero Serra, a missionary who has been criticized for forced conversions and destroying native culture.
A day earlier, city officials preemptively removed a statue of Christopher Columbus from San Francisco’s Coit Tower and placed it in storage.