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Crews start removing Calhoun statue in Charleston

Work continued at least until midmorning June 24, 2020, to remove the John C. Calhoun from Marion Square in downtown Charleston, S.C.
Work continued at least until midmorning June 24, 2020, to remove the John C. Calhoun from Marion Square in downtown Charleston, S.C.(WRDW)
Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 5:03 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - After more than 17 hours, crews have brought down the statue of former United States Vice President and South Carolina statesman John C. Calhoun in downtown Charleston Wednesday afternoon.

As the statue was being brought down to ground level a little after 5 p.m., cheers were heard from a group in Marion Square. It was then placed and secured on a flat bed truck and driven away.

“We’re pleased to get this job done,” said Mayor John Tecklenburg who was at Marion Square as the statue was coming down. “It was a challenge getting Mr. Calhoun down...we’re glad to see him come down.”

Tecklenburg said the statue will be stored in a safe and proper place until a more permanent facility can be found.

Calhoun was the seventh vice president of the United States. His support of slavery has prompted calls for the statue’s removal from Marion Square for years. But the push to take down the monument gained new momentum in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

Charleston City Council voted unanimously late Tuesday afternoon on the resolution to remove the statue.

The effort to remove the statue was a challenge as workers hit delays including one early Wednesday morning. City spokesman Jack O’Toole said that delay involved a breakdown of equipment being used while workers were attempting to cut the statue from its pedestal.

Crews brought in diamond saw cutting blades when they encountered a bronze mounting bracket filled with concrete and some type of epoxy-like material that runs the length of the circular platform the statue stands on.

Crews had been making progress, O’Toole said, until they ran into a problem with the hydraulics in one of the lifts crews were using to reach the top of the pedestal.

While the problem was being repaired, crews began removing plaques about Calhoun that are mounted to the monument itself. Once the hydraulics issue was fixed, crews returned to their work at the base of the statue.

Work began on the removal shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday, hours after Charleston City Council voted in favor of relocating it.

But shortly before 6 a.m. while the statue still stood on its pedestal over the square, word came from crews at the scene that it would be another hour to an hour-and-a-half because additional supplies were needed. Crews did not specify what additional materials were needed.

The Charleston Police Department announced at 11:34 p.m. that Calhoun Street between Meeting Street and King Street was closed for the removal of the statue.

Police initially said the street would be closed for several hours, but at 7:06 a.m. Wednesday, police spokesman Charles Francis said the street would remain closed until further notice.

A crowd gathered overnight at Marion Square as crews worked to remove the statue.

“We have a sense of unity moving forward for racial conciliation and for unity in this city,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said following the vote to remove the statue on Tuesday evening. “God bless you all.”

Tuesday’s decision came after the city did legal research to first figure out whether or not they owned the statue and could take it down.

Some people feel like the statue is a part of history, and said it should remain up.

City officials said they will be consulting with historians and a committee to find a new place for the statue.

Tecklenburg said he would like the statue to be moved to a local museum or a higher education learning facility where it can be placed in full historical context, and be preserved and protected.

Calhoun, born in 1782 in Abbeville, South Carolina, was a statesman, serving in a variety of roles including U.S. senator from South Carolina, a U.S. secretary of state, secretary of war and the nation’s seventh vice president. He died in 1850, 11 years before the start of the Civil War.

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