A statue of the U.S. Supreme Court justice who penned the historic 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to African Americans was removed from the grounds of the Maryland State House by crane early Friday morning.
The statue of Roger B. Taney was lifted away at around 2 a.m. under the cover of night, similar to the city of Baltimore’s recent operation. It was lowered into a truck and quickly driven away to storage. The bronze statue was originally erected outside the building’s front steps in 1872.
Three of the four voting members of the State House Trust voted discreetly by email Wednesday to remove the statue. House Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat who was one of the three who voted in favor of its removal, wrote this week that the statue “doesn’t belong” on the grounds. His comments came after the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend when violent clashes broke out between white nationalists and counter-protesters over the removal of a monument to Robert E. Lee. A woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when a car plowed into a crowd gathered in the protests.
Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, said this week that removing the statue of Taney in Maryland was “the right thing to do.” Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford voted on behalf of the administration to remove the statue. However, one member of the trust, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, criticized holding the vote without a public meeting and, instead, doing it digitally without proper discussion.
“This was certainly a matter of such consequence that the transparency of a public meeting and public conversation should have occurred,” Miller wrote in a letter Thursday to Hogan. Miller is a registered Democrat.
While the statue’s removal was not publicized, likely to avoid a disastrous protest, a few dozen onlookers watched as workers started the removal process shortly after midnight. Some who were in attendance began cheering as the statue was lifted from its pedestal.
The statue was removed a couple of days after Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the removal of four Confederate monuments from the city under the cover of night, one of them being of Taney.
Taney was born in Maryland and practiced law in Frederick, Maryland, before becoming the nation’s official fifth chief justice. Dred Scott, along with his wife Harriet, were slaves who sued for their freedom after they were taken from the slave state of Missouri into territory where slavery had been prohibited by the Missouri Compromise.
This year marked the 160th anniversary of the 1857 decision. Earlier in March, a family member of Taney’s publicly apologized to the Scott family in front of the statue that was removed Friday. Charles Taney IV of Greenwich, Connecticut, apologized on behalf of his family to the Scotts, and to all African Americans, for the “terrible injustice of the Dred Scott decision.” Lynne Jackson, the great-great-granddaughter of Dred Scott, accepted the apology for her family and “all African Americans who have the love of God in their heart so that healing can begin.”
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