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AUSTIN, Texas — University of Texas President Greg Fenves ordered the immediate removal of statues of Robert E. Lee and other prominent Confederate figures from a main area of campus, saying such monuments have become “symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”

Fenves announced the move late Sunday night as crews were in place to begin taking the statues down. The school also blocked off the area during the process, and the statues are expected to be gone by mid-morning Monday, a spokesman said.

The university moved a statue of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis from its perch near the campus clock tower to a history museum in 2015. Fenves now says statues of Lee, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston and Confederate Postmaster General John H. Reagan, which were in the same area as Davis, also will be moved to the Brisco Center for American History on campus.

Crews early Monday first removed a statue of former Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg, which was commissioned at the same time as the others, a spokesman said. Hogg will get another place on campus.

Less than 30 people, both supporters and opponents of Fenves’ order, congregated after midnight behind barricades near the statues. There was a heavy police presence and some arguments occurred between those gathered.

Mark Peterson, who identified himself as a University of Houston student, was seething at the removal of the statues.

“I hate the erasure of history and my people’s history … people of European descent who built this country,” the 22-year-old said. “It burns me to my core.”

Mike Lowe, an activist for the removal of Confederate statues in San Antonio, was driving to Dallas when he heard the statues were coming down, turned around and drove to campus. Lowe, 37, who is African-American, engaged in a brief but tense argument with a white male protester until police stepped in to separate them.

“They have no other reasons than ‘you are erasing our history.’ Their reasoning is flawed. These monuments represent white supremacy, and black lives haven’t mattered in this county the same as a white man’s matters,” Lowe said.

The debate over public memorials for Confederate figures roared into national conversation last week after one person was killed and 19 injured when a car drove into a crowd of people in a clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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