The violence in Charlottesville, Virginia and controversy over Confederate monuments have renewed concerns here at home over two Brooklyn streets named after Confederate generals. And as our Bobby Cuza reports, recent events have also prompted the removal of a separate tribute to Robert E. Lee that stands nearby.
In North Carolina, protesters toppled a Confederate statue Monday. It was a similar story elsewhere from Tennessee to Florida to Brooklyn.
That’s right, Brooklyn, where for more than 100 years, a plaque honoring Robert E. Lee has been affixed to this tree outside St. John's Episcopal Church, a tree Lee himself planted in the early 1840s, during his time stationed at the nearby Fort Hamilton Army base.
But on Wednesday, the plaque is coming down, to be removed by custodial staff, according to Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. The diocese owns the church, which hasn’t been in active use since 2014 and is being sold.
The plaque had gone mostly under the radar, until it was raised by Brooklyn pastor Khader El-Yateem.
"We are demanding from our Army to rename these streets," El-Yateem said.
El-Yateem, a candidate for City Council, was joined by a handful of protesters Tuesday, primarily concerned with the renaming of two streets inside the Fort Hamilton Army base: General Lee Avenue, the main road through the base, and Stonewall Jackson Drive.
"On our Army base, right here in our own neighborhood, we have signs that honor people who fought to preserve slavery," El-Yateem said.
"Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson committed treason in defense of slavery," said John Hagan, a local resident.
Others have long made the same case. In June, Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and three of her colleagues also demanded a name change. The Army responded that any change would be controversial and divisive, and that the streets were originally named in a spirit of reconciliation. There’s little doubt where the White House stands--
"This week, it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson's coming down. I wonder, it is George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?" Trump said. "You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"
As for the plaque, it was installed in 1912 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. But the tree itself isn't actually all that historic. The diocese says the original tree died and has been replaced twice.