National

Charleston removing statue of slavery defender, former Vice President John C. Calhoun

A 100-foot monument to former U.S. vice president and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun towers over a downtown square Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. Officials in Charleston voted unanimously Tuesday to remove the statue from a downtown square, the latest in a wave of actions arising from protests against racism and police brutality against African Americans. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

 (CNN) — Crews in Charleston, South Carolina, began the process of removing a statue of John C. Calhoun in the early hours of Wednesday morning, according to a tweet from the police department.

Calhoun, a former vice president of the United States, is also known for defending slavery and owning about 80 slaves himself.

Statues controversial because of their connection to racial injustice and slavery have been removed by both protesters and cities in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died in police custody. But conversations around those monuments, particularly Confederate monuments, have been the subject of national debate for years.

Charleston City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution for the removal Tuesday night, according to CNN affiliate WCSC.

“We have a sense of unity moving forward for racial conciliation and for unity in this city,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said following the vote the station reported. “God bless you all.”

The meeting, with comments from members of the council and public, lasted two hours before the decision was reached, the station reported.

Councilmember Peter Shahid said it was time for the statue to be replaced with symbols of unity, the station reported.

“The statue has served as a symbol of division in our community and we don’t need that,” he said. “We need symbols that unite us, that bring us together not tear us apart.”

Before removal, the city had to determine if it owned the statue and could legally remove it, the station reported.

Another monument was also in the process of being removed Wednesday. Crews in Raleigh, North Carolina, began removing a 75-foot tall statue of a Confederate soldier from government property beginning Sunday, according to CNN affilaite WRAL. A part of the monument base was removed by crane in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The removal began after Gov. Roy Cooper ordered the removal of Confederate monuments on state grounds following nights of protests. Cooper said the order was to protect against the dangers of individuals toppling the statues themselves and breaking out into clashes, the station reported.

“This is a metaphor for all the other systems that are going to be taken down,” Raleigh resident Iliana Ewen told the station. “This is a great symbol to stand behind and be celebrate that change.”

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