A statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, was removed from its prominent location at the center of the University of Texas at Austin on Sunday, marking a success for a student-led movement that gained momentum after the shooting massacre at an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The statue of the Confederate leader has been displayed for decades in the most prominent open space of the campus, sitting along with other Confederate leaders, such as Albert Sidney Johnston, John H. Reagan, and Robert E. Lee.
But on Sunday morning, more than 100 people watched as the statue was wrapped in protective plastic and taken down with a forklift.
Xavier Rotnofsky, student body president of the university, told BuzzFeed News some in the crowd compared the event to the infamous toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
"The feeling in the crowd was celebratory, but the feeling on campus, especially among students, is that we tackled one symbol of institutional racism, but now we need to tackle the other systemic problems," he said.
The statue was moved to the school's Dolph Briscoe Center for American History as part of an educational display.
"Jefferson Davis had few ties to Texas, but played a unique role in the history of the American South that is best explained and understood through an educational exhibit," Gregory L. Fenves, president of the university, said in a statement on Aug. 14.
"As a public university, it is vital that we preserve and understand our history and help our students and the public learn from it in meaningful ways," Fenves said.
The statues of the other Confederate leaders will remain in the university's Main Mall, Fenves said, because of their "deep ties to Texas."
The university, however, will consider placing a plaque in the Main Mall to provide historical context to the statues, according to the statement.
Student movements at the university have previously pushed to remove the Confederate statues but fallen short.
"This is decades in the making," Rotnofsky told BuzzFeed News earlier this month.
Rotnofsky was elected earlier this year partly on a campaign to renew efforts to move the Davis statue.
Efforts to do so gained momentum in June after nine people were gunned down inside a historically black church in Charleston, allegedly by a 21-year-old white man who appears to have a history of using Confederate symbols to espouse racist hate. The massacre sparked a nationwide movement to remove Confederate iconography from public grounds across the U.S.
"It led to a humongous outpouring of people's feelings about the issue," Rotnofsky said.
"Not only was he a leader of the Confederate movement, but he is in the South Mall, one of the most prominent parts of the university," Rotnofsky said. "That's why we thought it was absurd."
Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
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