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Pugh to explore removing Confederate monuments in Baltimore

 New Orleans recently took down its Confederate monuments. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh says she is considering doing the same thing in the city.

“The city does want to remove these,” Pugh told The Baltimore Sun. “We will take a closer look at how we go about following in the footsteps of New Orleans.”

Before former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake left office last year, she added signs in front of four Confederate monuments in Baltimore. The signs said, in part, that the monuments were “part of a propaganda campaign of national pro-Confederate organizations to perpetuate the beliefs of white supremacy, falsify history and support segregation and racial intimidation.”

But Rawlings-Blake stopped short of removing the monuments. She cited costs and logistical concerns, and left the decision to Pugh, who took office in December.

Pugh said she’s been focused in her first months in office on implementing police reforms under the consent decree negotiated with the Department of Justice and finding more funds for the school system. She said she’s now turning her attention to other issues, such as the monuments.

“You name it, we’ve tackled it,” she said. “This is another one of those things that we will tackle as well.

“New Orleans has taken on this issue. It costs about $200,000 a statute to tear them down. … Maybe we can auction them?”

Carolyn Billups, a past president of the Maryland chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said the city faces more urgent and costly issues.

“I find it interesting that Baltimore city has that kind of money to move statues when there are problems with crime and schools,” the St. Mary’s County woman said. “I would think that would be more of a priority.”

The murder of nine African-Americans in the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., by a white supremacist in 2015 revived an ongoing national debate over confederate flags and other symbols.

Rawlings-Blake appointed a commission of academic and officials to review the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women’s Monument on West University Parkway, the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernon Place, and the Robert E. Lee and Thomas. J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell.

The commission recommended removing the Taney and Lee and Jackson monuments, and adding signs to the two others.

Members suggested the Lee and Jackson statue be offered to the National Park Service to place in Chancellorsville, Va., where the two Confederate generals last met in 1863. They said the statue of Taney, the chief justice from Maryland who wrote in the notorious Dred Scott decision that African-Americans could not be U.S. citizens, should be discarded.

Billups warned against forgetting the past.

“If you erase Confederate history, what are you going to teach or think about?” Billups said.

The commission noted that about 65,000 Marylanders fought for the Union while 22,000 fought for the Confederacy, yet Baltimore has just one public monument to the Union.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan stopped the state from issuing license plates with the image of the Confederate battle flag. Baltimore County officials moved to change the name of Robert E. Lee Park to Lake Roland Park.

In New Orleans, workers removed statues of Jefferson Davis, Lee and Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, as well as an obelisk commemorating the Battle of Liberty Place, an attempt by white supremacists to overthrow Louisiana’s Reconstruction-era government.

“We have not erased history,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said last week. “We are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Prudente contributed to this article.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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