The Confederate flag is not the only Southern symbol facing intense scrutiny following the racially motivated shooting in Charleston, S.C., that left nine parishioners dead in a historic African American church last week.
Across the country, statues memorializing Confederate dead have been mocked and defaced as pressure mounts to remove what many view as enduring symbols of white supremacy.
Ground zero for the fight over Confederate memorials is downtown Charleston, where a statue dedicated to Confederate defenders of the city was vandalized Sunday with the words “Black Lives Matter” in red spray paint, according to the Post and Courier.
The words “This is the problem #racist” were also spray-painted on the granite base of the 12-foot bronze statue, which was placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1932, according to the newspaper.
The pedestal’s permanent inscription is “To the Confederate Defenders of Charleston.”
The memorial at White Point Garden sits less than two miles from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of last week’s church massacre.
The incident was reported to police around 12:30 p.m, and within an hour, the Post and Courier reported, residents wrapped the base of the memorial in a tarp, concealing the damage. Signs saying “All lives matter #charlestonunited,” and “Take down racist statues” were placed on the tarp afterward.
Zachary Gaither, a Charleston resident who helped cover the graffiti, told the Post and Courier that he does not associate the statue with racism.
“I was covering up something that was demoting our city,” he said of the graffiti, adding: “The Confederate flag is a Southern heritage of pride to me.”
A second Charleston statue memorializing 19th-century South Carolina statesman John Calhoun was defaced in recent days as well, according to CBS affiliate WCSC. Initially, the monument to the secessionist and defender of slavery read “Truth Justice and the Constitution.” But the words “AND SLAVERY” were tacked on the end.
Calhoun’s name on the statue also has a spray-painted addition: “RACIST.”
Hundreds of miles north, in Baltimore, a statue honoring Confederate soldiers was painted with the words “Black Lives Matter” on Monday, according to news reports. The statue in Bolton Hill was erected by the Maryland Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903, according to the Baltimore Sun.
An inscription at the base of the statue — which is now partially covered in yellow paint — reads: “To The Soldiers and Sailors of Maryland In The Service Of The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865.”
On the University of Texas campus in Austin, two statues — one memorializing Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston and another devoted to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America — were defaced on Tuesday. The Davis statue was targeted last month as well with the words “Davis must fall” and “Emancipate UT,” according to the Associated Press.
Cindy Posey, spokeswoman for campus security at the university, told the AP that “Black Lives Matter” was also scrawled on the base of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee as well.
Graffiti also appeared early Tuesday morning in Asheville, N.C., on a monument commemorating Zebulon Vance, according to ABC affiliate WLOS. Vance served as a U.S. senator, North Carolina governor and first colonel of the Confederate States Army’s 26th North Carolina Regiment.
On Sunday, activists placed “Black Lives Matter” signs on a Confederate monument in St. Louis, according to St. Louis Magazine. The signs hid a quote from Lee and a poem from a Confederate St. Louis soldier that reads: “We had sacred principles to maintain and rights to defend for which we were duty bound to do our best, even if we perished in the endeavor.”
Modern-day activists disagree.