Ten tons of granite hewed from the Georgia mountain birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan has come tumbling down from the top of Seattle’s Capitol Hill.
The controversial monument to Confederate soldiers of the Civil War in the middle of Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemetery was pulled down apparently Friday or overnight. Witnesses described a scene indicating the huge Stone Mountain granite monument was toppled and dragged until it collapsed. Yellow pull straps were left behind at the scene.
The Independence Day episode echoes with efforts to remove and topple monuments to racist figures and the Confederacy around the country during a wave of Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. States bearing the Confederate “stars and bars” are also grappling with pressure to remove the symbol.
Meanwhile, with the controversial monument toppled, 4th of July also brought a crowd of about 100 chanting and marching right wing protesters and Trump supporters to the area where the Capitol Hill protest zone was cleared earlier this week. Around 1 PM Saturday, the march clashed with groups of counter-protesters near 11th and Pine and video showed a right wing demonstrator spraying his opponents with pepper spray. The group, including some apparently heavily armed participants, was reported marching around the neighborhood and into Volunteer Park.
Seattle might seem like a strange place for a Confederate monument but sympathies for the South rose even in the distant Pacific Northwest. The Lake View monument, erected in 1926, is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a national organization representing a collection of local associations dedicated to marking the contributions made by Southern women during the war, and collecting and preserving “the material necessary for a truthful history of the War Between the States.”
Unlike the nearby Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery which makes a permanent resting place for 219 Union Army veterans and wives, the Lake View monument does not mark any graves or honor specific people.
The memorial, said to be hewn from a “10-ton” block of “Stone Mountain, Georgia” rock, was created by the Seattle chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy reportedly with money raised at “Dixie Day” during the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Expo. The group included the actual daughters and wives of Confederate soldiers living in Seattle but the placement in 1926 came during a wave of historical revisionism and romanticizing of the Confederate South.
The monument continues to be managed by the national organization representing a collection of local associations that strive to provide support for families of Confederate veterans, pay tribute to the contributions made by Southern women during the war, and to “collect and preserve the material necessary for a truthful history of the War Between the States.”
But it is also seen as a symbol of hate. Only weeks earlier, the monument was targeted with paint and graffiti in one of a continuing string of attempts to deface and damage the stone structure. In 2018, the memorial suffered damage when several parts of the stone and brass plaques were smashed, including a portion of the monument’s inscription, an insignia, and a relief of General Robert E. Lee atop a pair of crossed muskets. Later that year, it was targeted by a national campaign calling for its removal.
“The Lake View Cemetery Confederate monument was put up during an era of intense racial violence in the South—a period that had also seen the Klan expand across Washington and Oregon, when lynchings became a common way of terrorizing black communities around the country,” a statement from Michelle Merriweather, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, calling for the memorial’s removal read. “It continues to send the message it was erected to convey. The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle—which has been fighting on behalf of Seattle’s most vulnerable communities for as long as this monument has stood—is loudly calling for its removal.”
Neighboring Volunteer Park, Lake View is a private cemetery operated by a nonprofit association. In the past, cemetery officials have said that since the memorial belongs to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, it is that organization’s responsibility to handle repairs and that the monument does not violate any of the cemetery’s policies.
This time when we contacted Lake View following the paint attack in June, the office declined to speak with CHS. We were told that manager George Nemeth was no longer interested in talking about the memorial.
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