Watertown native on Confederate statues: “They were really hurtful”



WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) – A Watertown native who fought in the Battle for Confederate Statues in Charlottesville, Va., Has said it is time for the statues to be removed.

The statues of Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were removed from their pedestals in Charlottesville last weekend, ending a four-year legal battle.

The threat to remove the statues sparked a protest by right-wing extremists in 2017, which resulted in the death of one person and injuries to 19 others.

Heather Hill has been a member of Charlottesville City Council since 2018 as the council fought in court for the right to remove the statues.

Heather was born Heather Danforth, the eldest of three daughters to Doug and Cherie Danforth of Watertown. She grew up on Ward Street.

“My mom was a public school teacher and my dad worked a lot of his time in city government, so I kind of understood the importance of public service in different capacities,” Heather said. 7 News Wednesday.

She decided to run for city council the day after President Trump was elected in 2016 – “It became clear to me that you are either going to get involved or you are just going to walk away,” she said .

So she spent much of 2017 attending city council meetings, knocking on doors, talking to people. She says Confederate statues “weren’t even on most people’s radar” until the violent “Unite The Right” protests on August 11-12.

“Once the events of 2017 happened, it was always going to be a flashpoint. And they’ve become representative of more than just generals sitting on their horses, ”Heather recalls.

“They were representative of an attack on our community and what our community values.”

It would take four years for the city to get the right to remove the statues – a lawsuit filed in March 2017 blocked the action until the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city.

Now Heather says she is “relieved” that the statues have been removed.

“I started to see people glorifying these – I’m sorry – these bronze figures, as if they were people. And they are not.

She said she would have no problem placing the statues in “an appropriate place” where people can get the full context of what they represent.

“It’s a story we shouldn’t try to erase or forget, but we have to recognize that some of these symbols can hurt people a lot.”

She says she’s learned a lot in four years – about race and inequality, about the advantages of whites, about being a public figure.

She is not running for re-election this fall. She says you find yourself “living in a glass house” and that it has been tough on her family – she has a husband and three young children.

But she has mixed feelings about leaving the board. “My heart is heavy walking away,” she said.

“It really changed me.”

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