Confederate statue toppled by anti-racism protesters after Charlottesville violence

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Angry protesters toppled a statue of a Confederate statue during a rally in response to violence by white supremacists.

The activists gathered in Durham, North Carolina, after anti-fascist campaigner Heather Heyer died after being mown down by a car in Charlottesville at the weekend.

Footage posted to social media showed a protestor putting a rope around the statue before it was yanked off its pedestal to the cheers of the assembled crowds.

The statue had shown a boy with a gun on top of a concrete column, with the inscription: “In memory of the boys who wore gray.” 

The demonstration was one of many held across the US to vent public fury over the death of 32-year-old Ms Heyer, who was mown down by a car as she protested against a far-right rally on Saturday.

At least 19 others were injured.

The suspect, 20-year-old James Field, was allegedly seen with members of a far-right group and holding a shield with an ultra-nationalist symbol on it before the incident.

Why are Confederate statues controversial?

Confederate statues are divisive since they represent a rebellion by the American South against anti-slavery laws.

During the civil war of 1861-65, seven southern states formed an army and rebeled against President Abraham Lincoln’s anti-slavery reforms. 

Confederate statues are criticised for celebrating racism and slavery, although their defenders say they commemorate an important part of history.

The violence on Saturday began with a far-right protest against the removal of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Confederate Army of North Virginia until their surrender in 1865.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre estimates that there are more than 700 Confederate statues across the US.

Politicians and other prominent public figures slammed US president Donald Trump‘s apparent reluctance to rebuke neo-Nazi groups in the wake of the tragedy.

It was not until Monday that Mr Trump spoke personally to specifically condemn far-right extremists, saying: “Racism is evil … Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, said protesters angry about the weekend’s “unacceptable” events should find different ways to take action.

He wrote on Twitter: “The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments.”

Some states are making efforts to remove Confederate symbols – a statue of general Robert E. Lee was taken off its plinth in New Orleans this summer.

However, far-right groups oppose the removals, often travelling from other states to stage demonstrations.

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