The city of Mobile in Alabama removed a controversial Confederate statue early Friday morning without announcing the decision beforehand.
The 120-year-old bronze monument represented Admiral Raphael Semmes, a commerce raider known for sinking Union-allied ships during the Civil War and who was jailed on treason charges in New York City.
The abrupt removal comes just days after protesters began flooding the streets of Mobile and other cities across the country to denounce systemic racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s in-custody killing in Minneapolis.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson confirmed Friday that he ordered the removal of the monument and said the statue is in “a secure location.”
“To be clear: This decision is not about Raphael Semmes, it is not about a monument and it is not an attempt to rewrite history,” Stimpson said in a statement posted on Twitter.
On June 4, 2020, I ordered that the statue of Admiral Raphael Semmes be moved from its location at the intersection of Government and Royal streets in downtown Mobile.
— Mayor Sandy Stimpson (@MayorStimpson) June 5, 2020
“Moving this statue will not change the past,” he said. “It is about removing a potential distraction so we may focus clearly on the future of our city. That conversation, and the mission to create One Mobile, continues today.”
Semmes, who was born in Maryland in 1806, also worked as a lawyer, teacher and newspaper editor, according to a biography by the Naval History and Heritage Command.
He once served as captain of the CSS Alabama cruiser and took his ship through the Atlantic from 1862 to 1864, capturing some 60 merchantmen and sinking a Federal warship, the online biography states. Semmes was briefly imprisoned after the conflict and later returned to Mobile to pursue a legal career.
In Virginia, meanwhile, Gov. Ralph Norman announced this week he plans to remove a massive statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led the South’s revolt to preserve slavery during the Civil War. It will be one five Confederate monuments to come down in Richmond.
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