Unfortunately, the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville and the Confederate statue that was toppled by activists in Durham on Monday are not alone. Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that there were at least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces across the country—not only in the names of parks, lakes, and schools, but also physical symbols like flags, statues, plaques, and monuments.
And one of them is right here in Seattle.
The United Confederate Veterans Memorial was built in 1926 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and sits in the Lake View Cemetery near Volunteer Park (the same cemetery where Bruce Lee is buried). It’s a memorial, but not an actual grave: No bodies are buried beneath it.
The granite used to carve the Seattle monument was shipped in from Stone Mountain, the Georgia landmark (and actual birthplace of the Klu Klux Klan) where the largest bas-relief in the world is carved—a memorial depicting President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson.
This isn’t the first time the monument has been targeted as symbol of hate that needs to be torn down. There was a petition circulating to have it removed back in 2015, after the Charleston shootings reignited the debate over the Confederate flag. On July 6 of that year, someone spray-painted “Fuck White Supremacy” on the monument. And in 2005, the flag insignia, bayonets, and a plaque with Robert E. Lee on it were stolen, but then restored.
After last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, another petition to remove the monument has surfaced. And it’s gaining steam, with over 1,000 signatures since it started circulating Tuesday morning.
“I don’t think the United Daughters of the Confederacy would go through all of this trouble to ship stone from an existing racist monument just to honor soldiers of a war that happened nearly three-quarters of a century before them," the organizer of the petition, who prefers to remain anonymous, said over email.
"The intention was and is clear, especially to Seattle’s communities of color.”
Before the petition even reached 100 signatures, the organizer received threatening messages on Facebook and at work—people used his work’s online contact form to send images from Facebook of him protesting, claiming he was part of the Antifa.
He started the petition when he was reminded about the monument by a friend who lives near the cemetery.
“This past weekend’s events and the death of Heather Heyer was a real kick in the chest,” he says. “I had been so distracted by events happening elsewhere that I completely forgot this thing existed in my friend’s literal back yard.”
He hopes with enough signatures on the petition, Seattle leaders will pay attention, and “recognize what is at stake with regards to upholding racist structures in our city (literally and figuratively).”
“It’s especially important that we, as white people, do not back down and let intimidation of any kind sway us from our path towards change. I know that this is the right thing to do, and I think the stakes, especially after this weekend, are just so much higher.”
UPDATE: A previous version of this post stated that there are no bodies buried beneath a Confederate monument in Capitol Hill. In fact, there are 11 bodies buried near or at the monument. We can't say for certain whether there are bodies beneath it, and Lake View Cemetery did not immediately respond to request for clarification.