Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has joined a chorus of voices in his city and online calling for a statue of Russian Communist leader Vladimir Lenin to be removed from its longstanding perch in the city’s Fremont neighborhood.
The sculpture was rescued from a scrap yard in Slovakia by an Issaquah, Wash., man and erected in the neighborhood in 1995 as a symbol of art outlasting politics. But recent violent events in Charlottesville, Va., centered around a white nationalist rally over a Confederate statue — as well as the call for the removal of divisive monuments elsewhere — has focused new attention on Seattle’s 16-foot-tall, 8-ton bronze piece.
Murray waded into the debate on Thursday, lumping the Lenin statue into growing distaste over a private Confederate memorial in Lake View Cemetery in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Here is the mayor’s statement, as reported by MyNorthwest.com:
“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. Both are on private property, but I believe the confederate memorial at Lake View Cemetery and the Lenin statue in Fremont should be removed. 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 years since the statue came to Fremont, the small neighborhood north of the city’s downtown has evolved from a haven for artists and hippies into one of Seattle’s more tech-centric districts. Google, Adobe, Tableau, Outreach and Pixvana are among the companies that make a home there, at the other end of Lake Union from the bustling and growing Amazon campus.
On Wednesday, a small group of supporters of President Donald Trump seized on the chance to point out left-leaning Seattle’s supposed hypocrisy. They shouted for the removal of the statue, equating its place in the city as a tacit acceptance of the genocide committed under the banner of Communism.
Ignoring the implied irony of showcasing the sculpture as a work of art or the notion that it could serve to call attention to the evils of fascism, protesters said the sculpture — privately owned and on private property — was no different than Confederate statues coming down in other U.S. cities.
Their action followed a debate online, where a well-known venture capitalist from Silicon Valley used Twitter to call for Lenin’s removal, and where Trump supporters on Reddit called out Seattle liberals for allowing such a thing to stand.