In light of Saturday’s violent clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, between a group identified as white supremacist and counter-protesters, the City of Bellingham has removed signs identifying Pickett Bridge at Prospect and Dupont streets.
On Monday Aug. 14, the Bellingham City Council requested the administration to look into the possible renaming of the Pickett Bridge, in coordination with the Historical Preservation Commission and other local stakeholders. Some members of the community have expressed concerns that the designation is not truly historical and that it honors a military leader for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Captain George E. Pickett was a U.S. Army officer who built Fort Bellingham in the 1850s and supervised construction of the first bridge across Whatcom Creek. He left the area in 1861 to fight for his home state of Virginia in the Civil War.
A motivating force behind the “Unite the Right” event organizers at Charlottesville was removal of statues of Civil War leaders. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is among those who have led removal of what he calls monuments to “the lost cause of the Confederacy.” He noted that a great nation does not “hide its history [but] faces its flaws and corrects them.”
Bellingham City Council members acknowledged local citizens and Western Washington University students who are uncomfortable with a local landmark named in honor of a military leader who served during a war marked as “a pinnacle of America’s racist history.”
“Bellingham does not tolerate hate speech, white supremacy or the neo-Nazi movement,” Mayor Kelli Linville said. “We have heard reports of local businesses being vandalized with swastikas and hate speech. This is unacceptable. We are a city committed to civil rights for all people, and we need to stand up to hate and take steps towards healing our country and our communities.”
Until the Council takes final action, the Pickett Bridge signs will stay down.