As cities across America tear down Confederate monuments on public property, Mayor Ed Murray on Thursday called for the removal of the Fremont Lenin statute and a memorial for Confederate soldiers in Lake View Cemetery. Both monuments are on private property.
In a statement to KING 5, Mayor Murray said his decision comes amid public pressure from Seattleites who have “expressed concerns and frustration over symbols of hate, racism and violence” in the city.
“Not only do these kinds of symbols represent historic injustices, their existence causes pain among those who themselves or whose family members have been impacted by these atrocities,” Murray said.
The violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend has reignited demands to remove Confederate symbols across the country. Baltimore officials tore down a statue of a Confederate soldier Tuesday night. Protesters toppled another statue in Durham. And debates have sprung up in other cities as well. But most of those debates concern monuments on public property.
The mayor’s call to remove the monuments follows a remark yesterday in which he expressed “concern” over a memorial for Confederate veterans, which was installed at Lake View Cemetery in 1926. There are 11 bodies buried at the monument.
Lake View Cemetery, owned by a private nonprofit, closed yesterday over public interest in the monument, and a voicemail message says the cemetery plans to stay closed until Monday. No one from the cemetery responded to The Stranger’s request for comment.
A statue of Vladimir Lenin, the Communist revolutionary leader of Soviet Russia who oversaw tens of thousands of deaths, has stood at the intersection of 36th street and Fremont Place North since the 90s.
The bronze figure, which is privately owned, was brought to the Puget Sound region by a construction company owner who died in a car crash in 1994. The Fremont Chamber of Commerce held the statute in a trust from 1995 to 2000, according to office administrator Caroline Sherman.
"We celebrate the statue as a commitment to freedom of speech. We decorate it with tutus and scarves. It is not a political symbol,” Sherman told The Stranger. When asked whether the statue should come down, Sherman said, "Any further comments about that should be directed to the Fremont Troll.”
The Fremont Troll, the more iconic sculpture in the Northwest Seattle neighborhood, did not respond to The Stranger's request for comment.
A few protesters, led by a conspiracy theorist who has been retweeted by Donald Trump, demonstrated in front of the Lenin statute yesterday in response to the movement against confederate monuments.
State Sen. Reuven Carlyle wrote a statement on his personal blog arguing that the Lenin statute should stay, claiming its purpose is to demonstrate "our very ability to install political art is the triumph of democracy over tyranny." He said there's no equivalency between the Fremont sculpture and Confederate monuments coming down across the country.
"Unlike the Confederacy statues throughout our nation built to formally honor those in that battle of ideas, this statue is distinctly not showcased in Fremont to celebrate the murderous, painful regime," Carlyle said. "It is instead installed as a testament to its defeat and the victory of open ideas through the medium and sometimes painful juxtaposition of art itself."
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.