On Saturday morning, the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from Charlottesville, Virginia, four years after a violent white supremacist protest in the city led to the death of a peaceful counterprotester.
Officials removed the statue at 8 a.m. and several hours later also took down Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's statue.
The recent campaign to take down the statues began in 2016, when then–16-year-old Zyahna Bryant created a petition to rename and remove Lee's statue.
The City Council voted for the statues' removal in 2017, sparking a violent rally among white supremacists in August that shook the country.
A counterprotester, Heather Heyer, was killed at the rally after a man drove his car into a crowd of people. The man, James Alex Fields Jr., was found guilty of murder in 2019.
Despite the City Council vote in 2017, a circuit court ruled two years later that the statues couldn't be removed because they were protected by state law. In April 2021, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned that decision.
Talking to BuzzFeed News after the removal of the statues Saturday, Bryant, a University of Virginia student, said that it was a long time coming.
"I watched council’s vote over a month ago, and I had been waiting on the edge of my seat since that night," she said.
She said watching Lee's statue come down was surreal.
"It didn’t take them long to get Lee and his horse off of the pedestal," said Bryant. "I remember everyone telling me 'Look' and 'Turn around' as it was finally being lifted off of its base."
Bryant said her grandmother ran across the street to witness the statues being removed. "That is a moment I will never forget," she said. "She and my mother have taught me what courage is.
"Without them I have no courage, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I am grateful to have witnessed that moment with them," she added. "It is a feeling of triumph."
Bryant said she found that the response to the statues being taken down has been mixed. Some who at first didn't support the removal came around after the violent white supremacist protest in 2017.
"What I have found is that there is so much power in public history work because it gives people the background knowledge needed to form an informed opinion," she said. "What I have found is that the more people know, the more open they become to change."
She said that she wants people to remember and honor the legacies of the Black women who have been at the forefront of this movement to get Confederate statues taken down.
"I also hope that young people see this and feel empowered to stand up and make positive change in their own communities," Bryant said.