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City taking steps to remove John C. Calhoun statue from Marion Square

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The John C. Calhoun statue towering 115 feet over Marion Square will be taken down and relocated, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg announced at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

Tecklenburg said he will make a resolution to place the downtown statue in a local museum or academic institution, which he said City Council will approve at its meeting Tuesday.

“That we as Charlestonians must reckon with Mr. Calhoun’s towering and deeply troubling legacy is a given. That we must allow his memorial to continue to divide our city while we do that reckoning is not a given,” Tecklenburg said.

This announcement came after members of the National Action Network, the Charleston branch of the NAACP and the S.C. General Assembly came together Tuesday to call for the statue’s removal.

Also on Tuesday, Charleston Wine and Food issued a statement announcing a boycott on the square as an event venue until the statue is removed.

The annual wine and food festival in March draws nearly 28,000 attendees and created a $19.9 million economic impact in 2020 for the Charleston economy.

“At the end of the day, this statue is a symbol of a point in our history that is, quite frankly, disgusting and sad, and symbols matter,” said Gillian Zettler, executive director of Charleston Wine and Food. “I regret that we spent so much time throwing large parties in Marion Square without being thoughtful as to who was watching over us.”

In an email after the relocation of the statue was announced, Charleston Wine and Food stated they were encouraged by what they heard at the news conference but do not yet plan to release a formal statement about next steps.

Mayor Tecklenburg also addressed the Heritage Act, which protects the removal of war-related markers in public spaces in South Carolina. Although the statue itself is owned by the city, it is erected on private property and is not a memorial to a specific war, Tecklenburg said.

Marion Square is owned by the Washington Light Infantry and Sumter Guards.

Tecklenburg’s announcement came on the fifth anniversary of the killings of nine churchgoers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church. He said the city will continue to take the next steps toward racial justice by discussing the futures of other city landmarks and monuments that are associated with racism and slavery.

Reach Alexandria Ng at 843-849-3124.

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