A statue of former US vice president and slavery advocate John C Calhoun has been pulled down in Charleston.
Calhoun, known as the The Cast-Iron Man in the early 1800s for his unbending support of Southern states’ rights, was a zealous defender of slavery which led the US to civil war.
His statue proved difficult to dislodge, with contractors eventually using a diamond cutter to bring the likeness down after 16 hours of work.
Charleston Parks director Jason Kronsberg said that “unforeseen conditions” were partly to blame for the delays, particularly a large bronze piece, deep inside the granite cylinder on which Calhoun stood.
Crews, which began the dismantling process at midnight on Tuesday, discovered the bronze when a concrete saw failed to cut through.
Mr Kronsberg said that a company – that had planned once the statue was down to use a diamond-tipped chainsaw to chop up the towering monument – instead spent hours hacking away at the cylinder.
Charleston’s council and mayor voted unanimously on Tuesday to move it to “an appropriate site where it will be protected and preserved”, the latest in a wave of actions arising from protests against racial injustice in America.
“I believe that we are setting a new chapter, a more equitable chapter, in our city’s history,” said Mayor John Tecklenburg.
Dozens of residents spoke for and against the statue at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Grace Clark, a Charleston resident who said her family has lived in the city since the late 18th century, asked them “to please not remove our history. Not all history is good but it is our history”.
Ms Clark offered an idea that city leaders had considered in the past, adding contextual information about Calhoun’s history with slavery, rather than taking down the monument.
The removal comes days after the fifth anniversary of the killing of nine black parishioners in a racist attack at a downtown Charleston church.
It also comes as cities nationwide debate the removal of monuments to Confederate leaders and others, and as thousands of Americans join street protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee.
Calhoun’s support of slavery, which he called a “positive good”, never wavered.
He said in speeches on the US Senate floor in the 1830s that slaves in the South were better off than free Blacks in the North. With his pro-slavery Calhoun Doctrine, he led the South toward secession before he died in 1850.
The statue’s ultimate resting place will be decided by a special panel and the mayor has anticipated it would go to a local museum or educational institution.