Bellingham mayor removes signs for bridge named after Confederate captain

SEATTLE — Mayors in two Washington cities took action Friday toward removing statues, monuments and signs honoring Confederate soldiers and other leaders in the wake of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called for the removal of a Confederate memorial at the Lake View Cemetery on Capitol Hill as well as a statue of Vladimir Lenin in the Fremont neighborhood.

"In the last few days, Seattleites have expressed concerns and frustration over symbols of hate, racism and violence that exist in our city," Murray said in a statement. "Not only do these kinds of symbols represent historic injustices, their existence causes pain among those who themselves or whose family members have been impacted by these atrocities."

Meanwhile, the city of Bellingham has removed signs identifying Pickett Bridge, which was named for Confederate Capt. George E. Pickett.

Cities across the county have been removing Confederate symbols and monuments. The U.S. Conference of Mayors said Friday that more than 250 of its members have signed on to a compact designed to combat hate, extremism and bigotry.

President Trump has condemned the actions, saying in a tweet: "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments."

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville says the city is committed to civil rights for all people.

"Bellingham does not tolerate hate speech, white supremacy or the neo-Nazi movement," Linville said. "We have heard reports of local businesses being vandalized with swastikas and hate speech. This is unacceptable. We need to stand up to hate and take steps toward healing our country and our communities."

The Bellingham City Council asked the administration this week to look into renaming Pickett Bridge with the help of the Historical Preservation Commission, the mayor said. Its actions were an acknowledgment to local citizens and Western Washington University students who were unhappy with a local landmark named in honor of a leader who served during a civil war marked "as the pinnacle of America's racist history," Linville said.

The Pickett Bridge signs will stay down until the council takes final action, she said.

The statues in Seattle are on private property. A petition calling for the removal of the Confederate monument has gathered thousands of names.

Murray said his office has contacted the cemetery operator to express concerns about the statue.

The granite Confederate memorial states, "In memory of the United Confederate Veterans," and says it was "Erected by Robert E. Lee, Chapter Number 885. United Daughters of the Confederacy. 1926"

"We should remove all these symbols, no matter what political affiliation may have been assigned to them in the decades since they were erected," Murray said. "This includes both Confederate memorials and statues idolizing the founder of the authoritarian Soviet regime."

Lake View Cemetery closed Wednesday after receiving threats about the monument and said it would remain closed until Monday due to the controversy.