The fall of a regime is often marked by the falling of monuments. On July 9, 1776, upon hearing the Declaration of Independence read for the first time, a mob of American colonists descended upon a statue of King George III in Bowling Green park in Lower Manhattan, tied ropes around the sculpture and pulled it to the ground. The lead from the statue was then turned into bullets and muskets in preparation for the Revolutionary War.
Nearly 250 years later, the nation born from that revolution is embroiled in controversy over the toppling of a different set of statues. More than 700 monuments honoring the Confederacy, a failed attempt to secede from the United States for the purpose of maintaining chattel slavery, are scattered across the nation. Most were built in the early 20th century, when the terroristic practice of lynching was at its peak and the burgeoning civil rights movement was met with fierce resistance that would be maintained until federal intervention decades later.
The era of mandated racial segregation came to an end more than 50 years ago, yet symbols memorializing that era still haunt many public squares and have increasingly becoming the site of public clashes. Images from Charlottesville last weekend of white supremacists carrying Confederate banners, shouting racist slogans and beating counter-protesters in the street resembled archive footage from the civil rights movement. The tragic death of Heather Heyer is part of a long history of white allies to the cause of racial justice murdered by white supremacists while protesting for equal rights.