More than 160 Confederate symbols were removed from public spaces or renamed last year after George Floyd’s death, more than the previous four years combined, a watchdog group said on Tuesday.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which campaigned for the removal of Confederate statues and monuments, released the findings as part of a report on the state of the symbols.
The nonprofit, based in Montgomery, Alabama, began tracking down symbols of Confederation after a white supremacist killed nine black worshipers at a legendary African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
In the group “Whose Heritage?” report, the Law Center said the past year had been transformative, but hundreds of symbols of Confederation remained.
“These dehumanizing symbols of pain and oppression continue to serve as the backdrop to important government buildings, courthouses, public parks and US military properties, including 10 bases named after Confederate leaders across the south.” Lecia Brooks, the centre’s chief of staff, said in a statement.
All but one of the 168 symbols eliminated in 2020 were removed or renamed after Mr. Floyd died in Minneapolis Police custody in May, a moment that catalyzed widespread protests against systemic racism and police brutality. He also renewed a calculation on the symbols of Confederation and their meaning.
Virginia led the way in the number of symbols removed last year with 71, followed by North Carolina with 24, followed by Alabama and Texas with 12 each, according to the report.
Larry McCluney Jr., the commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, criticized the move to tear down statues and memorials.
“So you are going to say that a war was fought and that there was only one side?” Mr McCluney said in an interview Tuesday night. “We are trying to purge or disinfect American history.”
Mr McCluney said it was unreasonable to judge Confederate leaders by current societal standards. He also argued that many soldiers who fought for the South during the civil war were buried in anonymous graves and deserved to be remembered.
“Is it right in 200 years to judge us?” he said. “They were men of their time.”
The Law Center said 31 public schools are due to change their names this year to sever ties with their Confederate heritage.
Last year, a 131-year-old statue commemorating Confederate soldiers was removed in Alexandria, Va. On June 2. Protesters in Richmond, Virginia knocked down a statue of Jefferson Davis on June 10 and vandalized other Confederate memorials. On June 13, a statue of Davis was removed from the Kentucky Capitol Rotunda.
A statue of a Confederate soldier holding a rifle in his hands was removed from Charlottesville, Va., In September.
Several other Confederate monuments and memorials in several states were covered in graffiti during the protests, which spread to other people and institutions believed to have a racist past.
In one case, a Confederate statue did not fall to protesters or politicians, but to Mother Earth: Hurricane Laura brought down a 105-year-old statue in Lake Charles, Louisiana in August.
Some institutions that have long supported imagery have changed their minds.
At the end of June, Mississippi removed the Confederate symbol from its state flag. And this month, North Carolina said it had stopped using a specialized license plate bearing the Confederate battle flag.
NASCAR banned the flag from its events and properties in June. His announcement partly prompted President Trump to defend the flag, starting what would become a constant crackdown on efforts to remove Confederate symbols.
His position put him at odds with his military. On June 6, the US Marine Corps banned display of the flag on Navy installations. On July 17, the Pentagon banned exhibits at military installations around the world, bypassing Mr. Trump’s opposition and preventing similar action by the military.
Military leaders have indicated they are ready to rename 10 army bases to Confederate leaders, but Mr. Trump has rejected the efforts.
Mr Trump also vetoed an annual military policy bill that included a bipartisan provision to remove the names of Confederate leaders from bases, but the House and Senate overturned the veto.
President Nancy Pelosi has called for the removal of 11 statues of Confederate figures from the U.S. Capitol, not for the first time, but only managed to remove four portraits.
While the Law Center said progress had been made in removing Confederate relics, the group expressed concern over the symbols that were displayed during the Jan.6 siege on the U.S. Capitol.
A man, who was later arrested, carried the Confederate battle flag inside the building.
“As seen on January 6, when an insurgent brazenly carried a Confederate flag through the halls of the Capitol, Confederate symbols are a form of systemic racism used to intimidate, instill fear, and remind black people that they have no place in American society, ”Ms. Brooks said.