Sam Spence

The bronze statue to John C. Calhoun that has loomed over Charleston for 124 years will soon be removed.

Crews worked through the night to remove the landmark statue of John C. Calhoun, a forefather to the nullification policy of the Confederacy.

Contractors started work after midnight to remove the bronze figure from the 110-foot pillar facing south toward the street also bearing Calhoun’s name. With a few starts and stops to remove the century-old visage over the early-morning hours, a pair of cherry pickers each carrying two workers were still sawing and drilling as the sun rose Wednesday.

Charleston City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution to remove the statue of the former vice president and powerful U.S. senator whose advocacy of slavery helped to tear the country into a civil war a decade after he died in 1850. The resolution called for the statue’s relocation to be “protected and preserved.”
Ausy McConnell, 47, of Goose Creek arrived at 5:30 a.m. to watch the statue’s removal.

“The thing that makes me mad is we were never taught this in school,” he said from a lawn chair at Marion Square. “People are still hurting. How can we ever forget about the oppression that has never been released if we are constantly reminded of it?”

The move to take down the Calhoun statue follows a string of protests in Charleston and across the country sounding the alarm over police violence against black people in the United States.

James Island native Nick Roper, 20, said seeing the George Floyd video was “a call to action” for him to get involved as an activist for the first time.

“I always felt like all the stuff that was happening was not capable of happening to me, even though I’m a person of color,” Roper said. “When I saw what happened to Mr. Floyd, I realized that it is my problem and it could happen to me, or my father or anyone.”

In an editorial published today, the Charleston City Paper said it was time to remove the statue.

“For too long, the statue has been a vivid reminder of a white elite that built Charleston’s antebellum wealth on the backs of enslaved Africans.”

To Phaizon Myers, a North Charleston native attending North Carolina A&T State University, the Calhoun statue’s removal is just the first step.

“I view it as a stepping stone to what needs to be done. This is not the last stop of demanding change and changing oppression in the system,” he said. “So, we take the symbols and we remove them, but we also need to get into legislation, judiciary, and demanding change that we want to see.”
“I’m asking my colleagues to go along with me,” Councilman Robert Mitchell said during Tuesday’s meeting before voting to remove the statue. “Being a person that was out here for a long time in the civil rights movement, I know how the City of Charleston was all those times back in the ’50s. None of us talked about heritage, we talk about peace, coming together — it wasn’t that way. It didn’t happen. Now is the time, we need to have some healing process. I don’t think a statue is a place that is going to bring a healing process if we let it stay there.”

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