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Confederate monuments, flags being removed across the South

Statues and monuments in honor of Confederate soldiers and leaders are coming down in Alabama and Virginia, with some covered in graffiti spray painted by protesters against racism and police brutality.

In Birmingham, a 115-year-old obelisk dedicated to Confederate soldiers and sailors was removed early Tuesday, one day after demonstrators tried to pull it down themselves. The monument stood in a park just a few blocks away from the 16th Street Baptist Church, which was bombed in 1963 by white supremacists. Four young black girls died in the bombing, including Sarah Collins Rudolph's sister, Addie Mae Collins.

Rudolph, who was seriously injured in the attack, went to the former site of the obelisk on Tuesday, and said she couldn't believe it was finally gone. It was "a hate monument," she told The Associated Press. "It didn't represent the blacks. It just represented the hard times back there a long time ago."

Following the 2015 shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, when a white supremacist targeted black worshipers, there was a call to remove Confederate statues across the South. Alabama instead passed a state law in 2017 to protect those monuments, and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) filed a lawsuit against Birmingham on Tuesday over the removal of the obelisk. The state plans on fining the city $25,000 for violating the law, which is fine by Mayor Randall Woodfin, who said it's worth it for peace in his town, AP reports.

While some monuments have come down due to vandalism, other organizations said they are removing their statues and flags by choice. On Tuesday, the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Alexandria, Virginia, took down a statue of a Confederate soldier titled "Appomattox." It was first erected in 1889, and one year later, a law was passed to prevent officials from removing it; the law was repealed this year. Near Tampa, Florida, a Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter lowered its giant Confederate battle flag, which had been visible from two highways.