Baltimore panel calls for removal of Confederate monuments

September 14, 2016 4:24 PM EDT

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(Reuters) - A Baltimore commission has urged the removal of two city-owned Confederate monuments, including one to a Supreme Court justice notorious for a 19th century ruling against black Americans, the mayor said on Wednesday.

There is one problem - no one wants the large bronze statues.

The special commission appointed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to study what to do with the city's four Confederate-themed monuments said that one to Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney should be removed, the mayor said in a statement.

Taney, a Maryland native, is best remembered for delivering the majority opinion in the 1857 Dred Scott case. The ruling found that African-Americans could not be considered U.S. citizens, whether they were free or slave.

The decision created a furor among abolitionists and free states just before the 1861-65 American Civil War, which ended slavery in the United States.

Maryland, straddling the North and South, was a slave state but remained in the Union during the war. The first fatalities of the conflict occurred in a Baltimore riot in April 1861.

In its report, the panel said that the double equestrian Lee and Jackson Monument to the two most venerated southern generals should be turned over to the National Park Service and placed at the Chancellorsville Battlefield in Virginia.

The report recommended retaining monuments to Confederate service personnel and to Confederate women in the majority black city.

Symbols of the pro-slavery Confederacy became a flashpoint for already troubled U.S. race relations after a white gunman massacred nine African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, last year. The assailant was seen in photographs posing with the battle flag carried by Confederate soldiers.

So far, Baltimore has not found a party to take and relocate the monuments, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake said.

"We're going to be reaching out across the state to see if anyone would be interested in partnering with the city of Baltimore in obtaining these monuments," he said.

In the meantime, the city plans to put up new signage at the four sites explaining their significance, the spokesman said.

Rioting broke out in Baltimore in April 2015 following the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, from a broken neck suffered in police custody. Six officers were charged but were either acquitted or had charges dismissed.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Alden Bentley)



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