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DC Mayor on statues: 'We need to have a reasonable conversation... not have a mob decide that they want to pull it down'

Protesters around the District are calling for the removal of several statues.

WASHINGTON — Mayor Muriel Bowser said Thursday the District must "have a reasonable conversation" when deciding how and when to take down statues and historical monuments as protests continue around D.C.

"I think what we need to do with statues is to have a reasonable conversation," Bowser said during a press conference Thursday. "Not have a mob decide they want to pull it down, and certainly not destroy anything in the District and set anything on fire."

The effort to remove statues continues in the District Thursday night, with protesters planning to gather again at Lincoln Park with a previously stated intent to tear down the Emancipation Memorial. 

"To achieve true justice, we are not working with the police, nor will we seek any relationship with them," the Freedom Neighborhood, who organized the June 23 effort, wrote in an Instagram post. "In order to create change, we will do so by any means necessary. If you want a revolution, it won’t happen by being peaceful."

RELATED: Protesters vow to tear down Emancipation Statue in Lincoln Park

The memorial, erected in 1876, depicts Abraham Lincoln holding the Emancipation Proclamation over a kneeling newly freed African American man who is still shackled. Some argue that while the Emancipation Proclamation changed the course of history, the statue oversimplifies the violent history that came before it, instead of memorializing Lincoln and not the many enslaved.

Beyond the depiction of a freedman at the feet of the former president, critics also say formerly enslaved Americans did not have any say in how it was built and fails to note the degree which enslaved African Americans pushed for their own emancipation.

Other statues in the District have already fallen at the hands of protesters earlier this week, such as the statue memorializing Confederate Albert Pike in Judiciary Square. Pike's statue had been a longtime source of controversy in the District, the only outdoor Confederate monument in DC.

Late in the night on June 19, protesters toppled the bronze statue and knocked it to the ground, defacing the exterior with graffiti and lighting it ablaze.

 In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam has advocated removing the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, where several Confederate statues have been defaced.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton also wants the Emancipation Memorial removed and has previously aid she will look to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives if the National Park Service cannot remove it. 

“Because Lincoln Park is National Park Service (NPS) land, I will work with the NPS to see whether NPS has the authority to remove the statue without an act of Congress and if so, we will seek its removal without a bill," Norton said in a statement from her office. "This statue has been controversial from the start. It is time it was placed in a museum.”

On Thursday, Bowser said Holmes has also "already proposed" legislation to remove the Andrew Jackson statue at Lafayette Square. 

On Monday, June 22, protesters broke through the fence surrounding the statue, threw ropes around it, and climbed on top to try to topple it. Jackson, who has ties to slavery and was a plantation owner, is depicted in military uniform riding a horse that is reared on its hind legs.

President Donald Trump called the actions taken by people who tried to take the Jackson statue down as "disgraceful," stating DC Police needed to do more in preventing statue vandalism.

"Numerous people arrested in D.C. for the disgraceful vandalism, in Lafayette Park, of the magnificent Statue of Andrew Jackson, in addition to the exterior defacing of St. John’s Church across the street. 10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!," the president tweeted.

MPD reported two "unrest-related arrests during the June 22 – June 23 timeframe." 

RELATED: Protesters and police faceoff near BLM Plaza early Thursday morning

RELATED: Updates: Police at St. John's Church Thursday morning after clash with protesters

RELATED: Protesters vow to tear down Emancipation Statue in Lincoln Park

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