Mayor Ed Murray has joined groups from around the city in calling for the removal of a monument to fallen Confederate soldiers in Capitol Hill's Lake View Cemetery.
He has also called for the removal of an iconic statue of Vladimir Lenin in the Fremont neighborhood.
"Both are on private property, but I believe the confederate memorial at Lake View Cemetery and the Lenin statue in Fremont should be removed," Murray said in a statement. "We should never forget our history, but we also should not idolize figures who have committed violent atrocities and sought to divide us based on who we are or where we came from.”
In the wake of terrorist violence and the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the removal of monuments and statues commemorating the Confederate States of America has come into the crosshairs of the nation. White nationalists, KKK and neo-Nazi members came to Charlottesville to protest the city’s order that a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee be removed.
Counter protesters and racists clashed over the weekend, and 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when a reported white supremacist plowed a car into a group of counter protesters. More than a dozen others were injured. Two officers monitoring the protests died when their helicopter crashed.
The Lake View monument was placed in the cemetery by the Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization dedicated to remembering the men who fought for the losing side in the Civil War, and which has some controversy of its own.
The organization placed the Confederate memorial in 1926 and it has remained on private property ever since. More than 4,000 people have signed a petition demanding the memorial be removed.
Murray agreed with the sentiment.
"We must remove statues and flags that represent this country’s abhorrent history of slavery and oppression based on the color of people’s skin. It is the right thing to do. During this troubling time when neo-Nazis and white power groups are escalating their racist activity, Seattle needs to join with cities and towns across the country who are sending a strong message by taking these archaic symbols down," Murray said in a statement. "The monument to Confederate soldiers in the Lake View Cemetery is located on private property. My office has called the cemetery operator to express our concerns regarding the monument. As we continue our ongoing proactive work to be an inclusive and welcoming community, we must also join the fight against the mainstreaming of hateful and despicable far-right political ideology.”
The cemetery, the resting place for martial arts legend Bruce Lee and many of Seattle's founding families, has closed temporarily to deal with the influx of complaints.
The statue of Lenin has an interesting history as well, and has only been in Fremont since 1995, after an Issaquah man rescued it from a Slovakian scrapyard. The 16 foot tall, eight ton statue often has the founder of the Soviet Union's hands dipped in red to symbolize blood.
Some see the statue as a reminder that art can outlast politics, others see it as a reminder of a bloody dictatorship impacting the globe from 1918 to 1989.
Some businesses in Fremont, such as West of Lenin, a performing arts theater, have based an identity around the statue. It has become one of Seattle's most-visited attractions.
Murray said the benefits did not outweigh the statue's meaning.
"In the last few days, Seattleites have expressed concerns and frustration over symbols of hate, racism and violence that exist in our city. Not only do these kinds of symbols represent historic injustices, their existence causes pain among those who themselves or whose family members have been impacted by these atrocities. We should remove all these symbols, no matter what political affiliation may have been assigned to them in the decades since they were erected. This includes both confederate memorials and statues idolizing the founder of the authoritarian Soviet regime," Murray said.