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Protesters topple Confederate statue in Washington

June 20, 2020

Protesters have pulled down a statue of a Confederate general in the US capital following nationwide rallies marking the end of slavery . The toppling comes just ahead of a controversial rally by President Donald Trump.

Statue of Albert Pikebeing toppled, set ablaze
Image: Reuters/J. Ernst

Protesters toppled and set ablaze a statue of a Confederate general in Washington, D.C. on Friday, following nationwide rallies to mark Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Demonstrators pulled the figure of Albert Pike down by rope, doused it with lighter fuel and set fire to it, before dozens began chanting "Black lives matter." Between 80 and 100 people gathered around the statue at 11 p.m. (3am UTC), and the statue fell around 11:15 p.m., according to Fox 5 News.

Albert Pike statue on the ground
The statue had been a point of contention for yearsImage: Reuters/J. Ernst

They then stood around in a circle as the statue burned, chanting "No justice, no peace" and "No racist police!"

US President Donald Trump tweeted shortly after to call the toppling a "disgrace."

"The D.C. police are not doing their job as they watch a statue be ripped down & burn. These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our Country!"


Demonstrators had earlier gathered in Washington outside the Lincoln Memorial and near the White House.

The nearly 11-foot (3.4 meter) Albert Pike statue has been a point of contention in Washington, with opponents having vied for its removal for years. A bill to remove the statue was introduced in October 2017 but later stalled. It was again reintroduced last summer.

Nationwide protests

Juneteenth demonstrations were also held in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, following weeks of protests over police brutality and systemic racism.

Several monuments depicting Confederate figures have been toppled in recent weeks. Also on Friday, protesters in Raleigh, North Carolina pulled down two Confederate statues; one was hung from a lamppost while the other was dragged down the street and placed in front of a courthouse.


On Thursday night, protesters in Portland, Oregon pulled down a statue of George Washington. Last week, people in Richmond, Virginia toppled another Confederate statue as well as the figure of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus.

Woman wearing mask showing "Black Lives Matter Plaza"
Protests were held across the US to mark JuneteenthImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Harnik

Connection with Tulsa Trump rally

Friday's toppling comes just ahead of Trump's controversial rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma — originally scheduled for Friday, but pushed back to Saturday following a widespread outcry over his choice of both date and location.

Tulsa's Greenwood district was the site of one of the US's worst racist massacres in 1921, which saw as many as 300 Black Americans killed in violent clashes with white mobs and over 800 admitted to hospitals. The neighborhood was formerly known as Black Wall Street, and was, at the time, the wealthiest Black community in the US.

Read more: Trump signs executive order on police reform

"We just want the world to know what happened here," Greenwood store owner Tony Williams told the Agence France-Presse news agency, also calling Trump's rally "disrespectful."

The rally is set to be Trump's first since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and dozens of Trump followers have camped out for several nights ahead of the rally in order to get the best seats. His rallies typically garner thousands of attendees.

Juneteenth marks the day — June 19, 1865 — when a Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas and informed slaves that they were free, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order granting freedom to slaves in the Confederate States.

lc/ng (AP, AFP)

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