Washington

Not a NW thing? A look at Washington’s Confederate monuments

A sign notes the establishment of Jefferson Davis Park in Ridgefield, Wash., along Interstate 5. A local group, Son of Confederate Veterans, owns the private park and has received death threats amid national efforts to remove Confederate monuments in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville. Jefferson Davis is the first and only president of the Confederacy.
A sign notes the establishment of Jefferson Davis Park in Ridgefield, Wash., along Interstate 5. A local group, Son of Confederate Veterans, owns the private park and has received death threats amid national efforts to remove Confederate monuments in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville. Jefferson Davis is the first and only president of the Confederacy. Courtesy

Confederate monuments in Washington are among those getting a critical look after violent protests over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

White supremacists had gathered in Charlottesville to protest that city’s plan to remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. Violence erupted as protesters clashed with counterprotesters. One person was killed when a man rammed a vehicle into a crowd.

Some monuments already have come down in the wake of the violence. In Baltimore, statues were hauled away overnight, while in Birmingham, Alabama, crews covered a monument with wood panels after state lawmakers passed a law this year that protects Confederate monuments.

Meanwhile, North Carolina’s governor said Tuesday he wants to remove such monuments in his state, one day after protesters toppled a Confederate statue in Durham.

But Confederate monuments are found outside the South. The Washington Post reports about 10 percent are in states that were not in the Confederacy — including in Washington. Historians point to the influence of Southerners who moved to Washington in the early 20th century as the reason for these symbols.

“They moved here, they brought their culture with them, and it made perfect sense then to honor their ancestors,” historian Feliks Banel told KIRO.

In Clark County, the Confederate flag flies at a private park named for Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederate States of America for the duration of the Civil War. The park features monuments that used to mark the northern and southern ends of state Route 99, once called the Jefferson Davis Highway, according to KIRO.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a local group that owns the park, has received death threats, according to KIRO. A leader of the group told the station it would protect the park with armed guards to prevent vandalism.

In Seattle, a monument to Confederate soldiers was erected in 1926 in what is now Lake View Cemetery. The Seattle Times described it as a “doorway-like structure, made of two stone columns and topped by a pediment” with “a pair of crossed muskets and an oval, metal relief of Gen. Lee’s profile.”

The Times reports the monument, which has been defaced twice, is near a burial ground for Civil War veterans. A petition to have it removed had more than 2,240 supporters as of Wednesday afternoon.

In East Wenatchee, Inlander reports on Robert E. Lee Elementary, dedicated in 1955. (The Washington Post also reports on the rise of Confederate monuments in the civil rights era of the 1960s.) The school district also has an elementary school named after Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who fought against Lee as the leader of the Union Army and later became the 18th President of the United States.

School officials considered changing the name of Robert E. Lee in 2015, but most people in the community “wanted to continue it the way it has been,” the superintendent told the paper.

It is the only school in the Northwest on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s map of public symbols named for the Confederacy.

Abby Spegman: 360-704-6869, @AbbySpegman

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