A top NAACP leader on Tuesday publicly spoke out against the move to tear down memorials to Confederate soldiers in the wake of racial violence in Charlottesville, saying that destroying a statue won’t change our nation’s history. Esther M. Lee, the president of the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, chapter of the NAACP, told a local news station that violence around the issue was simply not worth it.
“You know that’s history. That was in that point in time,” Lee said, according to WFMZ. “You can’t eliminate what history is. So I disapprove with young people pulling down those statues.”
“A young woman died. Two officers were murdered in a plane crash and all for what?” Lee asked. “Because somebody in their mind decided, ‘We don’t need to look at that anymore.'”
Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who was protesting the assembly of white nationalists, was struck and killed by a car that plowed into a crowd at high speed. Eyewitnesses have described the act as intentional, and a suspect, James A. Fields, was arrested by police shortly after the attack. Two Virginia state troopers died in a helicopter crash while responding to the scene.
Following the events in Charlottesville, protestors have toppled a monument memorializing Confederate soldiers in Durham, North Carolina. In Washington, D.C., protesters demanded that a statue memorializing Albert Pike, a Confederate general, also be torn down.
During a press conference at Trump Tower in New York on Wednesday, President Trump criticized the urge to topple Confederate monuments. He pointed out that several of our past presidents, namely George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves, and asked where the desire to destroy would end.
“You know, you do really have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” Trump asked.
His comments sent news outlets and several prominent Republicans into a panic.
Lee, no apologist for Trump, said she wished everyone would join her in praying for the president.
“I would pray that he would gain the strength to do what’s necessary in the job, at least for these four years,” she said.
A memorial service for Heather Heyer, the woman murdered in Charlottesville, was held on Wednesday afternoon.