Confederate monument dismantled Saturday
After months of controversy, a protracted legal battle and yet another last-minute court challenge, a construction crew early Saturday began dismantling a 121-year-old Confederate monument on Third Street in front of the University of Louisville campus.
The monument, given to Louisville in 1895 to commemorate Kentuckians who died in the Civil War, had triggered a fierce debate in the community over whether it should be removed as a symbol of slavery or whether it should be retained for its historical value.
Under an agreement approved by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, the monument will be relocated to Brandenburg, Ky., a small, Ohio River town about 45 miles away, which wants to use it as part of Civil War re-enactment events.
Metro Council member David James, whose district includes the monument, was one of the few spectators who arrived on a chilly, overcast morning to watch it be dismantled.
James, who is African-American, said he’s not sorry.
“I’m personally glad to see it go,” he said. “To me, it’s a vestige of the Civil War, of slavery, of all things that represent oppression to people of color.”
Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Fischer, said the work to dismantle the monument went smoothly, beginning with the removal of two statutes of Confederate soldiers on each side and a third statute atop the 70-foot-tall structure. The $400,000 project is being handled by Messer Construction, with $350,000 provided by the U of L Foundation and $50,000 by the city.
Poynter said the rest of the monument will be dismantled in stages over the next several days and the city hopes to have it done by the end of the week.
The portion of Third Street where the monument is located on a median will remain closed while the work is underway, Poynter said.
Workers hope to locate a time capsule inside the monument as reported in an 1895 Courier-Journal article that is said to include various Civil War-era artifacts, Poynter said.
The removal began after the city prevailed in a legal challenge from groups including the Sons of Confederate Veterans. A Jefferson Circuit Court judge upheld the city’s right to relocate the monument.
A last-minute legal challenge filed Friday in U.S. District Court failed to stop the removal.
The lawsuit was filed by Brennan Callan, a Louisville man best known for his 1999 federal conviction for attempting to sink the Belle of Louisville, causing significant damage to the historic steamboat. Callan sought an injunction to block removal of the monument.
On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell denied Callan’s request.