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Trump renews defense of ‘beautiful’ Confederate statues

Do Confederate memorials honor soldiers killed in war or memorialize racism?

A Confederate monument in Cornelius was vandalized Sunday, a day after violence between white supremacists and counter-protesters left a woman dead and dozens of people injured in Charlottesville, Va.
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A Confederate monument in Cornelius was vandalized Sunday, a day after violence between white supremacists and counter-protesters left a woman dead and dozens of people injured in Charlottesville, Va.

Showing his characteristic refusal to back down in the face of criticism, President Donald Trump deepened his defense of Confederate war memorials Thursday, sending out a series of messages on Twitter that adopted the language and arguments of white nationalists who have opposed their removal.

And Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that taking down statues of Confederate figures is “just like” removing a monument to people who died in the 9/11 attacks.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You … can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also … the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” the president wrote in a series of tweets.

Trump’s equation of Lee and Jackson, who took up arms against the Constitution, with Washington and Jefferson adopted one of the major arguments that defenders of the Confederate monuments have made.

Monuments to leaders of the Confederacy were erected across the South, and in some other parts of the country, mostly starting in the early years of the 20th century, as whites fought to prevent black citizens from voting and increased the strictures of segregation, which barred blacks from schools, hotels, restaurants and white sections of trains and other public accommodations.

The placement of the statues and monuments in public squares coincided with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the murder of thousands of blacks by lynch mobs in the early decades of the last century.

To blacks, and many white southerners, the statues have long been a symbol of racial oppression. In recent years, the movement to take them down and, in some cases, put them in museums instead of public parks, has gained strength in many southern cities.

Baltimore officials removed their Confederate monuments this week, and the mayor of Richmond, Va., the former Confederate capital, announced Wednesday that his city would begin reviewing its statues.

LePage, a Republican, made his comments comparing Confederate statues to the 9/11 memorial during an appearance Thursday morning on WGAN-AM when asked for his reaction to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend, reported The Associated Press.

LePage said he condemns “both sides” that demonstrated. He says he finds white nationalist and far-left protesters “equally as bad” and “disgusting.”

LePage said left-wing protesters who want to remove Confederate statues are ignorant of history and want to erase it. He compares them to “the Taliban in Afghanistan” in their desire to remove monuments.

LePage said he didn’t find out about the violence until Tuesday because he doesn’t watch TV or read newspapers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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