U of T removes statues

The University of Texas quickly removed statues of Robert E. Lee and other prominent Confederate figures overnight from the main area of the Austin campus early Monday, just hours after the school's president ordered they be taken down.

University President Greg Fenves abruptly announced late Sunday that the statues would be removed, saying such monuments have become "symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism." Crews worked through the night amid a heavy police presence.

The school blocked off the area, and some arguments occurred among those gathered. But all the statues of Lee, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston and Confederate Postmaster General John H. Reagan were successfully taken down.

By late morning, people walking by were stopping to gawk at the four pedestals, empty except for some construction debris and the bolts that once held the statues in place. Some snapped selfies, while a few climbed up the structures where the statues once stood.

But the scene remained peaceful and the area largely deserted. The university doesn't begin classes until next week.

Fenves said the statues of would be moved to the Briscoe Center for American History on campus. The university in 2015 moved a statue of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis from its perch near the campus clock tower, the same area as the other statues, to the history museum.

As the statues were being taken down, less than 30 people, both supporters and opponents of Fenves' order, congregated behind barricades near the statues. Among them was Mark Peterson, who identified himself as a University of Houston student. He was seething at the removal of the statues.

"I hate the erasure of history and my people's history ... people of European descent who built this country," the 22-year-old said. "It burns me to my core."

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