Update, August 17: Late Wednesday, Mayor Ed Murray, one of the petition’s targets, released a statement: “During this troubling time when neo-Nazis and white power groups are escalating their racist activity, Seattle needs to join with cities and towns across the country who are sending a strong message by taking these archaic symbols down,” Murray wrote.
Discussing the Lake View monument specifically, Murray acknowledged, as the petition organizer did, that it’s located on private property. “My office has called the cemetery operator to express our concerns regarding the monument,” he said. “As we continue our ongoing proactive work to be an inclusive and welcoming community, we must also join the fight against the mainstreaming of hateful and despicable far-right political ideology.”
The petition to remove the monument has now received more than 4,000 signatures.
After last weekend’s deadly white nationalist march protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Confederate monuments and memorials have been taken down around the country from Durham to Gainsville, both by decree and through protest.
In Seattle, however, our own Confederate monument still stands. It’s in Lake View Cemetery, the same place where martial arts legend Bruce Lee is buried, along with Chief Sealth’s daughter Princess Angeline, Doc Maynard, Thomas Mercer, and multiple Denny party members.
Public outcry has called for the memorial’s removal on multiple occasions—most recently in 2015, after a white supremacist attack on a Charleston church left nine people dead.
This time around, a petition to remove the monument, directed at Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council, has more than 2,000 signatures.
“I got a serious reminder that the low-key racism in Seattle is super easy to forget about,” said the petition’s organizer, who prefers to remain anonymous, “when you’re dealing with such a barrage of nonsense from the White House all the way down to local politics.”
“The gut punch that was Charlottesville this past weekend and the death of Heather Heyer and the graphic imagery from that scene kind of solidified it,” said the organizer. “She was murdered protesting a damn monument. So—for me as a [white] cis male—creating an online petition and sharing it on Facebook... seemed like a ‘bare minimum effort’ kind of thing.”
The monument was built by the Seattle chapter of the Daughters of the American Confederacy, after raising money during “Dixie Day” at the first Seattle World’s Fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, an event with its own legacy of racism.
The Daughters imported the stone from the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan (“just 11 years prior” to the monument’s dedication, the organizer notes): Stone Mountain, Georgia. Bronze details, including a Southern cross, stars and bars, and a plaque of Robert E. Lee’s face were removed by protesters in 2005 but later restored.
When it was dedicated in 1926, then-Seattle-mayor Edwin Brown was in attendance and then-Tacoma-mayor-elect M.G. Tennant even gave a keynote.
The memorial, the petition’s organizer told us, “simply helps perpetuate the lie of the benevolent Confederacy, when in fact they were fighting to uphold a system of chattel slavery.”
Neither Mayor and City Council staff had a statement at the ready, we were told to expect something later today—we’ll update when we hear back. The petition organizer said despite the cemetery being privately-operated, he decided to target lawmakers first: “It would be easy for a private association to ignore the petition and lock their gates to keep protesters out, but that becomes rapidly a less politically savvy move if we have the support of our Mayor and City Council.”
He added that while he wants to give city leaders a chance to weigh in, “I don’t hold out expectations that they will take action here.”
The Lake View Cemetery Association, which operates the cemetery, did not immediately respond to a request for comment (although one Association member told the Seattle Times “we try to keep it low profile”).
- Removal of the United Confederate Veterans Memorial @ Volunteer Park's Lake View Cemetery [Change.org]
- Seattle’s own monument to the Confederacy was erected on Capitol Hill in 1926 — and it’s still there [Seattle Times]
- Charlottesville protests: a quick guide to the violent clashes this weekend [Vox]
- How the Birthplace of the Modern Ku Klux Klan Became the Site of America’s Largest Confederate Monument [KQED]
- Abrams calls for removal of Confederate faces off Stone Mountain [AJC]
- Cosmopolitanism (and racism) at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exposition [JSTOR]
- Confederate memorial in Capitol Hill cemetery targeted [CHS]