CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – After setbacks, crews officially removed the John C. Calhoun statue from its pedestal high above Marion Square in downtown Charleston.
Work began just after midnight – only hours after Charleston City Council unanimously voted in favor of removing the statue Tuesday evening.
Before the meeting, Council received calls from 291 people in favor of the removal, 50 opposed, four in favor of relocation, and one to purchase the statue.
41 citizens spoke for one minute each during the meeting, voicing opinions in favor and against the removal of the monument. Those opposed to the removal said that to remove the statue would be to erase the history of Charleston and puts us on a slippery slope of rewriting history.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg promised that Council will be very careful about respecting history; an advisory task force is expected to assist in deciding an appropriate new home for the statue.
Charleston Police closed Calhoun Street between Meeting Street and King Street for the removal of the statue until further notice.
People gathered in Marion Square after news began to spread about the statue’s almost immediate removal. While some were against the statue being removed from the park, others celebrated the move.
Crews spent much of the early morning hours working to carefully remove the statue, but it turned into a lengthy process after discovering there was a rod running from the bottom of Calhoun’s feet down into the monument.
The statue’s removal comes in wake of the protests seen across the country following the death of George Floyd and renewed calls to remove symbols of the Confederacy.
During a press conference last week, Mayor Tecklenburg said while we acknowledge Calhoun’s efforts as a statesman, we can’t ignore his positions on slavery and discrimination.
He said Calhoun was one of South Carolina’s most consequential defenders of white supremacy and said the discussion began two years ago when he asked the city’s History Commission to add a plaque with historical context to the statue, but they couldn’t agree on that. Now, Tecklenburg said the time has come for the statue to stop dividing the Holy City.
The monument is 115 feet tall and was erected June 27, 1896.
Crews worked on carefully removing the statue through the early morning hours. The reason it has taken so long to remove the statue is because of a mechanical issue with one of the lifts being used to remove the statue. Crews also discovered a bronze mounting bracket that is filled with epoxy and concrete that runs the entire depth of the pedestal and is connected to Calhoun’s feet.
They later ran into another issue after discovering a rod in the back heel of the Calhoun statue that has to be cut. There was also a bolt that crews were unable to loosen.
“A resolution calling for a relocation, but listen to this, to a local museum or other academic institution where that necessary long and overdue reckoning can truly begin,” he said during a news conference last week.
Mayor Tecklenburg said the Calhoun statue is not a war memorial and it is not on public property, therefore, it does not fall under the state’s Heritage Act.
The statue was officially removed from its pedestal shortly after 5:00 p.m. It is unclear where the statue will be taken, but it will eventually appear in a museum or educational institute.