Washington, D.C. — Civil rights activists from several groups rallied at the statue of Civil War general Albert Pike Friday afternoon, demanding the U.S. Park Service immediately take it down. Speakers told the history of General Pike and related how such a statue on federal land symbolizes racism, White supremacy and oppression. About 100 joined in the rally.
During the rally, someone threw red paint on its granite base but was not arrested. The water-based paint trickled down the base as a heavy storm hit. Park Police attempted to wash off the paint but were only partially successful.
The Alfred Pike statue has stood near the Federal Appeals Court since 1902, sandwiched between several elms and blending in, because its has a moss-green surface from over 115 years of weathering. And it would have continued standing almost unnoticed had it not been for the Charlottesville terror attack a week ago Saturday.
That attack happened right after police ended a Neo-Nazi and White supremacist protest of the planned removal of a Civil War statue of General Robert E. Lee. The protest turned violent when nationalists charged into counterprotesters, swinging clubs and shooting mace. WATCH: James Alex Fields, Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, one of the White Nationalists, drove his car through a group of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19. The fallout from her killing has galvanized the movement against White supremacy in way not seen since the 1960s.
As the only statue in Washington, D.C. commemorating a Civil War General, the Pike Memorial has become a local lightning rod of resistance as pressure builds to remove such Civil War relics from public parks across the country..
These statues represent a period when White supremacy was codified in law and accepted in both social and political circles. But D.C. activists are putting pressure on local and federal government to end the Pike Memorial 115-year presence under the elms. They say it is a throwback to an oppressive ideology of White supremacy.
Carlos McKnight, a student from a local college, told the Civil War history of Albert Pike. “We are here to send a message to the city and federal government that we want the Albert Pike Memorial removed from federal land,” said McKnight, a rally organizer. “Look at the symbolism: a man who fought vigorously to preserve slavery gets a statue in a neighborhood dedicated to justice and law.” McKnight pointed out that when it comes to justice it is often that “people of color get the worst end of the stick.”
As an example, McNight pointed out that activists who removed a statue of a Civil War soldier in Durham early this week were prosecuted within 24 hours, but in Charlottesville White Nationalists were allowed to march with torches and chant Nazi slogans. “When you see someone who wants to remove a trophy to racism but are arrested in 24 hours but see someone able to march around in the street in Charlottesville with a tiki torch and say ‘blood and soil’ and ‘white lives matter,’ that is wrong and that is what institutionalized racism is in this country,” he said.
Franklin Garcia, shadow Congressman for D.C., said that people were becoming more aware of what they needed to do in their communities and that some good had come out of the chaos across the country. “This is the land of the free, so everybody should have an opportunity to be heard,” he said. He mentioned that earlier in the day another Civil War era statue had come down in Annapolis.
“What this symbolizes is hatred, and we need to grow out of that,” said Garcia. He blamed the divisive racial situation squarely on the Trump administration. “[Trump] is trying to cater to his base, and in the process of doing that he’s hurting a lot of people,” said Garcia.