CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Officials in the historic South Carolina city of Charleston voted unanimously Tuesday to remove a statue of former vice president and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun from a downtown square, the latest in a wave of actions arising from protests against racism and police brutality against African Americans.
Council members approved the measure 13-0 at a late-day meeting. The resolution authorizes the removal of the statue of the former U.S. vice president and senator from South Carolina from atop a 100-foot (30-meter) monument in downtown Marion Square.
City officials said eventually that the Calhoun statue will be placed permanently at “an appropriate site where it will be protected and preserved.”
Just before midnight on Tuesday the Charleston Police Department tweeted that, “Calhoun Street between Meeting Street and King Street is closed for the removal of the John C. Calhoun statue,” adding that the street will be closed for several hours.
Just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, workers using massive cranes began to bring the statue down from its 100-foot (30-meter) monument in downtown Marion Square. A few hundred people gathered at the scene, mostly in favor of removal.
The vote comes a week after the mayor, John Tecklenburg, announced he would send the resolution to the City Council. He also took part in the vote.
“I believe that we are setting a new chapter, a more equitable chapter, in our city’s history,” Tecklenburg said, just before the vote. “We are making the right step. It’s just simply the right thing for us to do.”
Council members heard from dozens of residents for and against the statue’s removal. Councilman Karl L. Brady Jr. said he knew his support may cost him votes but that he was voting his conscience in a move he said shows that, in Charleston, “we place white supremacy and white supremacist thought back where it belongs – on the ash heap of history.”
The move comes days after the fifth anniversary of the slaying of nine Black parishioners in a racist attack at a downtown Charleston church. It also comes as cities around the U.S. debate the removal of monuments to Confederate leaders and others after the policy custody death of a Black man, George Floyd, in Minnesota.
The ultimate resting place of the statue has yet to be determined, a decision that will be left up to a special panel. The mayor has anticipated it would go to a local museum or educational institution.