People gather around the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, after Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans to remove the statue. Photo: Ryan M. Kelly/AFP via Getty Images

Protests against police violence and racism have sharpened the focus of a long-standing debate about the place for and relevance of Confederate-era monuments and iconography.

What's happening: In some cities, monuments have become a hub for demonstrations, while others have been vandalized or toppled by protesters. In some instances, government officials have ordered them to be removed altogether.

  • Protesters in Richmond on Sunday pulled down a statue of Williams Carter Wickham, a Confederate general during the Civil War.
  • Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Thursday the state will remove the memorial for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond's historic Monument Avenue.
  • Officials in Alexandria, Virginia, removed a statue of a Confederate soldier named "Appomattox" on Tuesday.
  • City officials in Mobile, Alabama, removed the statue of Confederate Adm. Raphael Semmes from the downtown area Friday, Mayor Sandy Stimpson tweeted.
  • Officials at Nicholls State University in Louisiana are changing the names of two college buildings dedicated to Confederate generals.
  • The U.S. Marines issued a directive on Friday ordering the removal of all public displays of the Confederate flag, including from bumper stickers, posters, mugs, posters and clothing.
  • Law enforcement in Montgomery, Alabama, charged four people with criminal mischief for tearing down another statue of Lee that stood in front of Lee High School on Monday. A judge on Thursday dropped the case.

Why it matters: Civil rights advocates say the Confederate monuments pay deference to America's legacy of slavery and racism and want them removed. Others say the statues represent Southern history and heritage.

  • Context: The debate has resurfaced in recent years during flashpoints for race relations spurred by acts of racism-fueled violence — such as in the wake of the shooting at a Charleston church in 2015, and after a white supremacist killed a woman when he drove a car through a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

Between the lines: The Southern Poverty Law Center conducted a comprehensive analysis of 1,747 publicly sponsored symbols — including monuments, statues, flags, holidays, and the names of schools, highways and other locations — honoring the Confederacy.

  • SPLC found two primary periods where the dedication of these symbols spiked — during the first 20 years of the 20th century, coinciding with the enactment of Jim Crow laws, and during the Civil Rights Movement. Both were periods of extreme racial tension.
  • Zoom in: According to a registration form to add Richmond's Robert E. Lee statue to the National Park Service’s registry of historic places, the monument was erected in 1887 to commemorate the general and “herald the emergence of a New South from the adversity of defeat and reconstruction.”
  • "Instead of choosing to heal the wounds of the American Civil War, they chose to keep them on display," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said at a press conference announcing the statue's removal Thursday. "They launched a new campaign to undo the results of the Civil War by other means. They needed a symbol to shore up the cause. And it’s quite a symbol."

Yes, but: Harriet Senie, an art historian at the City College of New York specializing in public memorials, told NPR she favors a slower process for removing the statues, in addition to systemic changes.

  • "I think it's important that we own our history," Senie said. "We can take down all the Confederate monuments in this country, but that will not end racism if we can't learn from them."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add more context to Senie's position on Confederate monuments.

Go deeper

Updated Jun 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump tweets "wanted" images as 4 charged over bid to topple Andrew Jackson statue

Protesters attempt to pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square outside the White House on June 22. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Four men have been charged with destruction of federal property for allegedly trying to tear down the Andrew Jackson statue outside the White House this week, the Department of Justice said in a statement on Saturday night.

Driving the news: The announcement came hours after President Trump retweeted images of 15 people the U.S. Park Police said they and the FBI Washington Field Office's Violent Crimes Task Force were seeking to identify for "vandalizing" the statue and "other related crimes."

29 mins ago - Health

15 states broke single-day coronavirus records this week

Data: Compiled from state health departments by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

At least 15 states broke their single-day novel coronavirus infection records this week, according to state health department data reviewed by Axios.

The big picture: The number of coronavirus cases increased in the vast majority of states over the last week, and decreased in only two states plus the District of Columbia, Axios' Andrew Withershoop and Caitlin Owens report.

Updated 47 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 11,143,945 — Total deaths: 527,681 — Total recoveries — 6,004,593Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 2,818,588 — Total deaths: 129,584 — Total recoveries: 883,561 — Total tested: 34,213,497Map.
  3. States: Photos of America's pandemic July 4 ICU beds in Arizona's hot spot reach near capacity.
  4. Public health: U.S. coronavirus infections hit record highs for 3 straight days.
  5. Politics: Trump extends PPP application deadlineKimberly Guilfoyle tests positive.
  6. World: Mexican leaders call for tighter border control as infections rise in U.S.
  7. Sports: 31 MLB players test positive as workouts resume.
  8. 1 📽 thing: Drive-in movie theaters are making a comeback.