Hours after a protest organized by white nationalists against the removal of a Confederate monument erupted into violence and chaos in Charlottesville, Va., the mayor of Lexington, Ky., said he would speed up plans to relocate similar statues from the city’s former courthouse.
The mayor, Jim Gray, said in a statementthat plans to move the statues were planned before the violence in Charlottesville, which killed a 32-year-old woman and injured at least 34 others. He said what happened there “accelerated the announcement I intended to make next week.”
“We have thoroughly examined this issue, and heard from many of our citizens,” he said in the statement posted on Saturday.
The statues of John Hunt Morgan, a Confederate general, and John C. Breckinridge, the 14th vice president of the United States who also served as the Confederate secretary of war, are on the grounds of Lexington’s former courthouse.
The building, which has not been used for several years, is scheduled to reopen as a visitors center next year. The proposal under consideration would move them to a city park, Veterans Park, according to The Lexington Herald-Leader.
Mr. Gray said the next step was to ask the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council to support a petition to the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission, which he said was a required step in the process. “Details to come,” he said.
Efforts to remove Confederate symbols, most notably statues and the flag, from public parks and buildings intensified in 2015 after a white supremacist, Dylann Roof, killed nine black worshipers at a church in Charleston, S.C.
But as officials and residents in states such as Louisiana, South Carolina and Virginia have found in recent years, removing symbols of the Confederacy can be easier said than done.
Opponents of Confederate symbols see them as celebrations of racism and slavery, but their defenders say they are historically important and accuse critics of erasing the past or attacking white or Southern heritage.
The debates have become heated. The violence that erupted in Charlottesville on Saturday began as a protest by white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members over the proposed removal of a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park.
It was one of the largest public rallies of white nationalist groups in years and the one of the bloodiest confrontations yet over the future of a Confederate monument. But the removal of Confederate symbols has raised the specter of violence before.
When workers began to take down four monuments to the Confederacy in New Orleans in April, they wore flak jackets and helmets to protect against possible attacks and wrapped scarves around their faces to conceal their identities. The removal of the monuments, which included a 15,000-pound obelisk, happened under police guard.
It was an act of mass murder that sparked the removal of the Confederate battle flag from its place of honor in front of the South Carolina statehouse. A yearslong campaign to bring the flag down only reached its goal after the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church spurred Gov. Nikki R. Haley and a critical mass of legislators to support its removal.
During the 2016 campaign, the flags came to mean something else for some people: a symbol of support for the candidacy of President Trump and a rebuke of sorts to the liberal forces, like political correctness, that he railed against while campaigning.
Confederate battle flags and other symbols of the Old South appeared at Trump rallies held in former Confederate states like Florida and Virginia but also in places far above the Mason-Dixon line, including Colorado, Michigan and Oregon.
When Mr. Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, he said that he supported Ms. Haley’s call for the Confederate flag to be removed from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse.
“I think they should put it in the museum, let it go, respect whatever it is that you have to respect, because it was a point in time, and put it in a museum,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the time.