Confederate statues in Baltimore were removed from their concrete bases overnight, as crews using heavy machinery loaded them onto flat bed trucks and hauled them away, an end to more than a year of indecision surrounding what to do with the memorials.
The action comes after Baltimore City Council approved a plan Monday night to remove four statues linked to the Confederacy from public spaces in the city, after a national conversation was renewed following a deadly act of terror during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday.
Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday morning crews working for the city began removing the four Confederate monuments at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and finished at 5:30 a.m.
“It’s done,” she said Wednesday morning. “They needed to come down. My concern is for the safety and security of our people. We moved as quickly as we could.”
Pugh said she personally watched as monuments were taken down.
As she did on Monday, Pugh again said she was surprised more hadn’t been done on the process of removing the statues before she took office. She said the city is still lining up plans on what to do with the monuments now that they’ve been taken down. But the quick overnight action was designed in part to avoid violent conflicts over their removal like what Charlottesville experienced.
“I did not want to endanger people in my own city,” she said. “I had begun discussions with contractors and so forth about how long it would take to remove them. I am a responsible person, so we moved as quickly as we could. “
On Tuesday, activists in the city had vowed to tear down the statue in Wyman Park Dell — similar to how monuments in other cities have been destroyed this week — if Baltimore officials didn’t act swiftly.
It happened in the middle of the night.
Television news crews and a handful of police officers milled about at the Robert E. Lee & “Stonewall” Jackson Monument at Wyman Park Dell near Johns Hopkins University as the sun came up.
Derek Bowden came from home, minutes away in Guilford, to take pictures of what was left of the Lee & Jackson Memorial, a vandalized stone platform devoid of the two generals.
He agreed with the city's decision, but said racism and white privilege run deeper than could be addressed solely by the removal of a few statues.
"It's major in it's own right, but it's small when it comes to the bigger battle," the 59-year-old photographer said. "It's a bigger battle. This is a small victory. There's a larger issue we have to look at, with being Americans and upholding the Constitution, ... to protect all people."
Joules, a 31-year-old artist who declined to give her last name, said she had been riding her bicycle past Wyman Park Dell about 3:20 a.m., when she noticed cranes and Bobcats taking down the monument and putting it on a flatbed truck as police watched.
"Way to be, Baltimore, sneaky style, and do it in the middle of the night," she said.
The Charles Village resident said she wants to know where the statues were taken and what will be done with them.
"I feel like it's a deep issue. They're accurate, archived documentation of the position and rank of these two men. ... But I'm not hee-hawing the Confederate flag," she said. "Maybe it belongs in a Confederate cemetery."
Other statues being removed included the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women's Monument on West University Parkway and the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernon Place.
Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday said the long-debated statue to Taney — the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who ruled in the Dred Scott case — at the State House in Annapolis should come down.
The one in Baltimore, though, is no more.
Diane Lee has been catching the bus at the Mount Vernon bus stop for about a year. Each day, she looked over and saw the Taney monument before starting her morning commute. It made her think of hatred.
When she saw the empty pedestal Wednesday, the 47-year-old Baltimore resident breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank goodness," said Lee, who is black. "It's about time they took that down. Nothing but a blasted eyesore.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Luke Broadwater and Talia Richman contributed to this article.
This story will be updated.