U.S. President Donald Trump has shot down the campaign to rename US military bases honouring Civil War Confederate leaders and also remove monuments glorifying the once pro-slavery South.
“These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” Trump responded in a tweet.
“My Administration will not even consider renaming these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations. Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with,” he wrote.
The importance given by Trump to keeping installations like Fort Bragg in North Carolina — America’s largest military base — as they are was underlined by press secretary Kayleigh McEnany reading out the tweet and giving printed copies of it to reporters.
She called the push for change an “absolute non-starter.”
Demands to rename such installations have gathered momentum in the wake of mass protests across the United States against police brutality and racism against African-Americans that were sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Ten bases honoring generals from the secessionist South, which lost the Civil War and its struggle to preserve slavery, are in the spotlight.
Other sites include Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Benning in Georgia.
Anger from anti-racism protesters has also focused on statues of southern Civil War heroes, the Confederate flag and statues of explorer Christopher Columbus, who opened the Americas to European settlement.
A statue of the navigator was beheaded in Boston, police said Wednesday. Another was toppled in Virginia.
And late Wednesday, footage from NBS affiliate WWBT showed a statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis lying in the street in Richmond, Virginia after it was torn down from its pedestal.
Similar attacks on statues of historical figures seen by activists as celebrating racism and slavery have taken place in Britain and Belgium.
On Wednesday US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said 11 statues of Confederate soldiers or officials should be removed from the US Capitol.
“Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals” of American democracy and freedom, the top Democrat in Congress wrote to a bipartisan committee.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper had indicated earlier this week that he’d be at least open to a “bipartisan discussion” on base renaming.
The Navy, meanwhile, said that it was outlawing Confederate flags — still popular in southern states — aboard all its ships and other facilities.