The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from its pedestal Wednesday in the former Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, where it stood since 1890.
The 21-foot high bronze sculpture of Lee sat atop a granite pedestal nearly twice that tall, towering above Monument Avenue. It was the last Confederate monument to be removed from the avenue, which once featured memorials to Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, Confederate President and former U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Gen. Stonewall Jackson, and Matthew Fontaine Maury.
The figure of Lee astride his beloved horse Traveller was lowered to the ground after a construction worker who strapped harnesses around the figure lifted his arms in the air and counted, "Three, two, one!" to jubilant shouts from hundreds of onlookers.
Workers used a power saw to cut the sculpture in two along the general's waist so that it can be hauled under highway overpasses to an undisclosed state-owned facility until a decision is made about its future.
"Any remnant like this that glorifies the lost cause of the Civil War, it needs to come down," said Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who called it "hopefully a new day, a new era in Virginia." The Democrat said the statue represented "more than 400 years of history that we should not be proud of."
Sharon Jennings, an African American woman born and raised in Richmond, told the Associated Press she had mixed feelings seeing it go.
"It's a good day, and it's a sad day at the same time," said Jennings, 58. "It doesn't matter what color you are if you really like history, and you understand what this street has been your whole life and you've grown up this way."
"But when you get older, you understand that it does need to come down," she added.
Now the only statue remaining on the avenue honors Arthur Ashe, a world-renowned African-American tennis pro and a son of Richmond. It too was vandalized to some degree during last year's protests, but it still stands.
After George Floyd's death, all of the Confederate monuments in the city and around the nation became a source of controversy. So did the statues of central historical figures like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and even Lewis and Clark.
But in Richmond, the area around the figure of Lee became a hub for protests and occasional clashes between police and demonstrators.
Northam had ordered the statue to come down in June of 2020, but a legal battle from residents and heritage organizations ensued, eventually being decided by the Supreme Court of Virginia. The high court ruled the restrictive covenants from more than 100 years ago were no longer enforceable and the statute could be removed by the state.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney used his executive power to remove the other Confederate monuments.
"I've given this order for two reasons," Stoney told CBN News in July of 2020. "First as a matter of public safety. The second reason I act today is because it is past time. As the capital city of Virginia, we have needed to turn this page for decades and today we will."
Even one of Lee's descendants believed it was time to place his ancestor's bronze likeness in a museum. Robert E. Lee V, Lee's great-great-grandson, told Newsweek in 2017 that his ancestor didn't believe in the sort of message preached by white supremacists, the Klu Klux Klan, or neo-Nazis today.
"Our belief is that General Lee would not tolerate that sort of behavior either. His first thing to do after the Civil War was to bring the Union back together, so we could become a more unified country," he said.
Lee said the statues should be moved to a museum and put into the proper "historical context."
On his CBN News Channel series The Global Lane, CBN News' Gary Lane also added some analysis to the tearing down of the Confederate monuments across the country and how it reminded him of ISIS smashing ancient Assyrian and Judeo-Christian artifacts.
"In both cases, the goal of the offended parties is to destroy the history they do not like," Lane said. "It's about an immediate act that makes them feel better without thinking of the long-term impact on a culture or civilization. All that matters are the emotions of the minute and eliminating the offense."
"Should we allow American history to be altered? What's the consequence and what is the solution?" he asked.
Philosopher George Santayana once offered some perspective on the matter saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it!" In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said (paraphrased), "those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."