Disappearing act: Another midnight exit in Baltimore?

Perhaps Baltimore should credit the Indianapolis Colts for its strategy for dealing with the controversy over its Confederate monuments. This city has some experience with having its fixtures packed up and moved in the middle of the night. After the city council voted on Monday to remove all Confederate statues, Baltimore removed all four in cover of darkness:

Statues dedicated to Confederate heroes were swiftly removed across Baltimore in the small hours of Wednesday morning, just days after violence broke out over the removal of a similar monument in neighboring Virginia.

Beginning soon after midnight on Wednesday, a crew, which included a large crane and a contingent of police officers, began making rounds of the city’s parks and public squares, tearing the monuments from their pedestals and carting them out of town. …

The statues were taken down by order of Mayor Catherine Pugh, after the City Council voted on Monday for their removal. The city had been studying the issue since 2015, when a mass shooting by a white supremacist at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., prompted a renewed debate across the South over removing Confederate monuments and battle flags from public spaces.

That didn’t take long, eh? At least Baltimore tackled the situation through proper legal channels. Their elected officials set the policy, and executed it in accordance with the law. Regardless of the motives and the wisdom of the policy involved, that is an example of self-governance in action.

Of course, they wanted to avoid having their citizens take the law into their own hands, in both directions. The speed of the removal was clearly intended to keep protesters from tearing the statues down on their own, as happened in Virginia. They did it under cover of darkness to keep defenders of the monuments from preventing their removal or starting a riot around them. It’s a smart move for those backing the removal of Confederate monuments, and one that will likely be copied by other cities and states. Perhaps the Indianapolis Colts should start charging a license fee.

Not everyone appreciated the irony:

Joules, a 31-year-old artist who declined to give her last name, said she had been riding her bicycle past Wyman Park Dell about 3:20 a.m., when she noticed cranes and Bobcats taking down the monument and putting it on a flatbed truck as police watched.

“Way to be, Baltimore, sneaky style, and do it in the middle of the night,” she said.

The Charles Village resident said she wants to know where the statues were taken and what will be done with them.

“I feel like it’s a deep issue. They’re accurate, archived documentation of the position and rank of these two men. … But I’m not hee-hawing the Confederate flag,” she said. “Maybe it belongs in a Confederate cemetery.”

Perhaps that’s the best place for them, or perhaps the city can sell or give them to private owners for installation on private property.

The removal included the statue of Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, who wrote the execrable and notorious Dred Scott decision in 1857 that ruled even free blacks did not have citizenship rights in the US. Republican Governor Larry Hogan had called for its removal yesterday from the State House grounds:

“While we cannot hide from our history — nor should we — the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history,” Hogan said in a statement. “With that in mind, I believe removing the Justice Roger B. Taney Statue from the State House grounds is the right thing to do, and we will ask the State House trust to take that action immediately.”

Hogan previously supported keeping Taney in his spot at the State House, and in 2015 called removing monuments to the Confederacy “political correctness run amok.” Hogan did recall more than 100 Sons of Confederate Veterans commemorative license plates that year.

A spokesman said Tuesday that the governor was moved to change his mind following the weekend events in Charlottesville, Va., where white supremacists held demonstrations and one woman was killed and others injured when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters.

“The governor was disgusted by the events in Charlottesville and rightly concluded that these memorials had become a rallying point for white supremacists and bigots,” Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said. “Their presence on prominent public land was sending a confusing and ultimately inappropriate message.”

The city of Baltimore obliged him. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the start of a process in which the feudal, racist Confederacy finally stops getting lionized in art and popular culture, and we finally put an end to the echoes of a Civil War in which the right side prevailed. It won’t happen immediately, but this might be a first step.