Four Confederate-era statues displayed in a main area on the University of Texas campus in Austin disappeared overnight Sunday after the school's president ordered their immediate removal.
University of Texas President Gregory Fenves said in a statement released late Sunday night that the statues had become symbols for white supremacy and had to be taken down.
"Last week, the horrific displays of hatred at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville shocked and saddened the nation," Fenves wrote. "These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism."
Fenves said three of the statues would be relocated, and one would likely be erected in a different area on campus.
"The statues depicting Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, John Reagan and James Stephen Hogg are now being removed from the Main Mall," he said. "The Lee, Johnston and Reagan statues will be added to the collection of the Briscoe Center for scholarly study. The statue of James Hogg, governor of Texas (1891-1895), will be considered for re-installation at another campus site."
Although Fenves ordered the removal to take place overnight to avoid any possible confrontations, it didn't stop a crowd from gathering while those on both sides of the argument voiced their opinions.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, there was a heavy police presence and a small group of about 30 people stood behind the barricades and watched as crews removed the statues shortly after midnight on Monday.
"Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African-Americans. That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry," Fenves said in his statement.
"We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus," he added.
Another step in a heated debate
The debate over whether Confederate memorials should still exist in public places was propelled into the national spotlight after a protest of a Confederate-era statue removal in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month led to a violent clash between those identifying as white nationalists and counterprotesters.
Several schools in southern parts of the country still display Confederate-era memorials in main areas of their campus honoring key figures and Confederate soldiers in the war, including the University of Mississippi and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although both have been pressured to remove the statues since the events in Charlottesville, neither university has announced any plans to do so.
Those supporting the takedown of public Confederate-era statues say the memorials are outdated and do not represent American values as they are today, but instead embolden racists and white supremacists to be more outspoken in their beliefs.
Critics of the removals happening across the nation say the monuments represent history, which cannot be erased.