The statue of Albert Pike, a Confederate general and noted Freemason, counts as nothing more than an eyesore that stands on a pedestal near the foot of Capitol Hill, between the Department of Labor and Municipal buildings in Northwest.
Along Constitution Avenue, also in Northwest, another eyesore quickly captures attention: a stained-glass Confederate memorial at the Washington National Cathedral honoring Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
Though the Confederate flag that once adorned the Cathedral memorial is no longer there, at least 12 of the statues in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection are of Confederate figures.
In the wake of a violent clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters sparked by the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month, there’s heightened awareness to monuments to the Confederacy.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) have called on the removal of all such monuments from the Capitol and local officials, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, have asked for others to be taken down.
And other cities around the country, including Baltimore, have also moved to take down Confederate monuments in recent weeks.
“Across the South, cities are removing outdoor statues of Confederate leaders. Here in the nation’s capital, there is one on National Park Service land,” said Bowser spokeswoman LaToya Foster. “We believe the National Park Service should remove the Pike statue and seek public input on which historical figure should replace it.”
Several District council members have also called for the removal of the Pike statue.
“Now is the time to end racism and bigotry,” said Ward 5 Council member Anita Bonds. “This is a time to look at all monuments that go against the fabric of America’s democracy and justice for all. We need to begin with our public institutions and parks. Hate does not belong on public display.”
In a letter to the National Park Service, At-Large Councilman David Grosso said Pike supported slavery and served as a brigadier general for the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
“We in the District of Columbia hold dear the values of equality, diversity and inclusion, which are in direct conflict with the values embodied by the statue of Albert Pike,” Grosso said. “In a time when these values are under constant attack by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and far-right terrorists, the presence of a statue honoring Albert Pike only serves to perpetuate and incite hate, violence and oppression.”
Council members Bonds, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, all signed the letter with Grasso.
National Park Service officials declined to comment.