A small crowd gathered as workers toiled for about three hours to remove the Caesar Rodney statue from Rodeny Square. As a handful of people opposing the removal arrived, tempers occasionally flared.
Delaware News Journal
A statue of Caesar Rodney will be added to the still-to-be-built National Garden of American Heroes, President Donald Trump said Thursday during a speech at the National Archives in Washington.
The announcement came more than three months after the Rodney statue was removed from Wilmington’s Rodney Square.
That statue, however, will not be going to Washington. It is owned by the city.
“Today I am announcing a new name for inclusion,” Trump said. “One of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence was a patriot from Delaware… Caesar Rodney was called upon to break the tie even though he was suffering from very advanced cancer. He was deathly ill. Rodney rode 80 miles through the night, through a severe thunderstorm from Dover to Philadelphia to cast his vote for independence.”
Rodney was likely not deathly ill during that trip, though he did suffer from a facial cancer. He died in 1784, eight years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
“For nearly a century a statue of one of Delaware’s most beloved citizens stood in Rodney Square, right in the heart of Wilmington,” Trump said. “But this past June, Caesar Rodney’s statue was ordered removed by the mayor and local politicians as part of a radical purge of America’s founding generation.”
The Rodney statue was removed on June 12 during a time when activists targeted historical statues of Confederate figures and American colonists for what they say are celebrations of slavery and racism. Statues came down either by protesters’ hands or government officials’ agreement.
Mayor Mike Purzycki said in June that the Rodney statue in Wilmington was “removed and stored so there can be an overdue discussion about the public display of historical figures and events.”
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In a statement provided to Delaware Online/The News Journal Thursday, Purzycki said: “The City did not remove the Caesar Rodney statue to discredit it, but to protect it. It is not damaged, but is in safekeeping. We will have a community discussion about public statues in our City in the near future and at some point, we will reach a consensus. It is unimaginable, with the challenges facing our country today, that the President of the United States is worried about how we choose to tell our story and preserve our history.”
Trump established the statue garden in a July 3 executive order. The garden is not expected to open until 2026 and is intended to be “a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live,” Trump said when he announced it.
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Trump used Thursday’s speech, which was billed as the first “White House Conference on American History,” to attack his opponent, Joe Biden, whose home is not far from where the statue was removed.
“Joe Biden said nothing as to his home state’s history and the fact that it was dismantled and dismembered and a founding father’s statue was removed,” Trump said. “Today America will give this founding father, this very brave man who was so horribly treated, the place of honor he deserves.”
The statue removal in June was met with cheers and protest. Some applauded the removal of a symbol of racism and others said it was unfairly erasing American history.
In late August, Republican U.S. Sen. candidate Lauren Witzke, who earlier this week won a primary, held a rally at Rodney Square that she called the “Restore our Historical Monuments Protest.”
This story may be updated as more information becomes available.
Contact Jeff Neiburg at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.
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