June 8 (UPI) -- Workers in St. Louis began disassembling a massive Confederate monument that had become a target for vandals angry over what they view as its racist symbolism.
A spokesman for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said the decision was made to remove the 103-year-old monument to the Confederacy after residents petitioned to have it taken down. The massive granite structure, in the north side of Forest Park, weighs more than 40 tons.
A work crew removed the top portion of the monument on Wednesday using cranes. They loaded the hunk of stone onto a large flatbed truck and drove it away.
The mayor's office said city engineers are developing a plan for how to remove the rest of the hulking edifice without damaging the surrounding area or the park's small roads.
Vandals spray painted the base of the structure with messages including "Black Lives Matter" and the acronym "FTP," a shorthand for vulgarity aimed at police.
The decision in St. Louis mirrors ones being made in cities across the South, where controversy has surrounded vestiges of Confederate memorialization on public land. Supporters have argued the monuments are a part of U.S. and local history and are a show of civic and regional pride. Detractors said they point to the ugly history of slavery the Confederate states fought to protect during the Civil War and institutional racism that followed for generations before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation.
As has been the case elsewhere, the question of what will happen to the St. Louis monument remains a source of debate. Krewson vowed the monument would not be destroyed, but efforts to find a museum or other relevant home for it have yielded no takers. Failing that, she said the monument would be disassembled and stored indefinitely by the city.