(Reuters) - Municipal workers in Kansas City, Missouri, on Friday started dismantling a Confederate memorial that was vandalized earlier this month, the latest move to take down a Civil War symbol amid a fierce debate about race and the legacy of slavery in America.
A rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, by white nationalists opposed to plans to move a statue of a Confederate general there turned deadly on Aug. 12 when a man crashed a car into counter-protesters, killing one woman.
Crews in Missouri’s largest city began breaking up the 8,000 pound (3629 kg) stone monument commemorating the “women who stayed behind” during the Civil War before dawn at the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which had become concerned for its safety.
The monument will be transported to “an offsite, secure storage space” until the UDC decides what to do with it, City Hall spokesman Chris Hernandez said by telephone.
The city’s parks department was overseeing the move, the costs of which were being covered by “an anonymous donor,” Hernandez said.
The UDC national headquarters and its local Kansas City chapter did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The organization’s president, Patricia Bryson, said in a previous statement that the UDC “totally denounces any individual or group that promotes racial divisiveness or white supremacy.”
Vandals had scrawled graffiti on the monument, which was erected in 1934, with red, illegible text earlier this month after public calls for its removal, local media reported. The city then covered it with wooden boards.
The monument was first erected by the UDC in 1934 at another location, according to the city’s parks and recreation department. Hernandez said it had been at its current site, the landscaped median of a boulevard, since the late 1950s and was one of the few Confederate monuments in the city.
“We actually don’t have very many here,” he said. “There are a few battlefield markers in some parks.” The city also has a cemetery where both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried.
The removal was part of an intensifying clash in the U.S. South over the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the rebel side in the Civil War, which was fought over the issue of slavery. Those tensions spiked at the deadly rally in Charlottesville.
Leaders of the Virginia city said on Friday they have hired Tim Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, to lead an independent review of how the city handled the unrest.
Reporting by Gina Cherelus and Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Dan Grebler