City workers removed Baltimore’s Confederate monuments in the still-dark hours of early Wednesday morning, leaving four empty pedestals in their wake. The swift, overnight job occurred just days after deadly protests erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, spurred by white supremacists who were defending a Robert E. Lee monument that still stands in Emancipation Park.

On Monday, the Baltimore City Council unanimously passed a resolution to remove all four of the city’s Confederate monuments, but there was no advance notice given to the public about the actual deed. The Washington Post reported that Mayor Catherine Pugh wanted to avoid any possibility of a violent outbreak that would echo the Charlottesville conflict. It’s also likely that if the city had waited any longer, local activists would have taken matters into their own hands, which could lead to greater complications: in Durham, police are now searching to arrest activists who successfully pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier with a rope before stomping on it. Individuals in Baltimore had already marked up a monument to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on Monday with the phrase, “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and placed a sculpture by artist Pablo Machioli of a pregnant woman with her fist up by its base.

The Baltimore removals, which began shortly after midnight, were organized and still drew a small crowd despite their suddenness. In less than five hours, the crew had dislodged the Lee-Jackson monument, erected in 1948; the one to Roger B. Taney, author of the Dred Scott decision, erected in 1887; the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which had stood since 1903; and the Confederate Women’s Monument from 1917. They were taken away, unceremoniously, on flatbed trucks, as onlookers cheered.

Baltimore City Paper’s editor at large, Baynard Woods, who was present and live-tweeting the occasion, told the New York Times that “The police are being cheerful and encouraging people to take photos and selfies.”

The removals come two years after former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake created a commission to review the city’s public Confederate Monuments. While the commission produced a 34-page report last August to identify key steps for their removal, plans to actually do so stalled. It’s not quite the end of the story yet for these monuments, however. The Washington Post reported that Mayor Catherine Pugh has yet to decide the ultimate fates of the statues, which will be determined after she consults with “interested parties,” including cemeteries where Confederate soldiers are buried.

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...