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Lexington removed a Confederate statue to ease conflicts but tensions remain
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Lexington removed a Confederate statue to ease conflicts but tensions remain

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After 141 days of protesting, LaQuisha Johnson watched as workers dismantled the Confederate statue in Lexington and removed it from the square at the Old Davidson County Courthouse late Thursday.

“We were so happy,” Johnson said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “I feel very proud of what we’d done out there.”

The statue was moved from its site in uptown Lexington in the early morning because city officials wanted to prevent any potential interference with the statue's move outside city limits, The Dispatch of Lexington reported.

The removal came barely 24 hours after a judge dissolved a restraining order preventing the move.

Supporters of the Confederate monument voiced their disappointment on social media. Others targeted the city of Lexington, protesters, the Daughters of the Confederacy and even local businesses, suggesting political motivations behind the move and proposing retaliation.

On Friday, people from both sides again showed up at the site.

The statue’s contentious history dates to shortly after it was erected in 1905. In the 1920s and '30s, it served as a site for Klu Klux Klan ceremonies and in recent protests has drawn heavily-armed people publicly affiliated with white supremacy groups, according to a complaint filed by the city.

Watch now: The Confederate statue in Winston-Salem came down in March 2019.

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The city recently fought in court for the statue’s removal because of safety concerns, citing tension between protesters and counterprotesters. However, Davidson County officials did not agree and filed a restraining order last week to prevent the city from taking down the statue.

But the county said it had no legal recourse after the city and the statue’s owner, the Robert E. Lee Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy No. 324, came to an agreement to have the statue relocated to somewhere outside of the city limits.

Debra Barta, president of the Daughters of the Confederacy No. 324, said in Thursday's hearing on the restraining order that the group wished it could keep the statue where it was, The Dispatch reported.

"But it is not practical in today's political climate," she said.

"Our goal has always been the preservation of the memorial," Barta said during the hearing, "and I fear for its safety, the safety of the citizens, and the safety of the community. People should not have to live in fear. Folks should not be intimidated by others on one side or the other."

Though Johnson is relieved to see the empty slab where the statue once stood, she noted just how volatile protesting became over the last several months.

"My life was in danger," she said. "Everyone's life was in danger that stood out there."

While she and a few others with Unity for Change, the group that took part in the protests, were celebrating the statue's removal on Friday, a woman upset that the statue was gone got into an argument with them and accused them of trying to start a race war, Johnson alleged.

She said she hopes that even if people still disagree with her opinions and with the removal, they will at least agree to disagree at this point.

"We would like for the city to come together. To stop with the separation. Stop with the negativity," Johnson said. "... It doesn't have to be a bunch of madness."

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