“When I look at that statue, I’m reminded my freedom and my liberation is only dictated by white peoples’ terms,” said Glenn Foster, 20, who formed The Freedom Neighborhood, a local group that has organized efforts to topple the memorial. “We’re trying to let the government know we’re not going to wait any longer for our freedom to happen.”
Word spread quickly of the group’s intentions, and on Friday, supporters of the statue showed up alongside those prepared to topple it, as well as those who wanted to wait for the legal process to play out.
“Things have gone from zero to 100 in a matter of days,” said Ms. Cole, who often portrays Charlotte Scott, the African-American woman who raised funds for the memorial after Lincoln’s assassination, in re-enactments and other events organized by a group associated with the African-American Civil War Museum. Scott is remembered in a plaque below the memorial.
But tensions were not limited to the streets of Washington. Mr. Trump, speaking at a Fox News forum on Thursday, slammed the protesters who want to tear down the memorial, calling them “rioters” and “bad people.”
“I can see the controversy, but I can also see the beauty in it,” Mr. Trump said of the memorial.
“I can understand certain things being taken down,” he added. “But we ought to go through a process, legally.”
The memorial sits in Lincoln Park, which is federal land under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department. So although mayors and governors across the country have responded to calls from local protesters by removing statues and monuments seen as racist, Washington’s mayor does not have that authority.