Police stand guard in front of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Hundreds of statues honoring the Confederacy, including states that supported slavery and rebelled against the US government in the 19th century, exist across the United States.

US President Donald Trump intervened in the debate on August 17 when he wrote a tweet praising controversial monuments and saying that their beauty would be `remembered by many` if the statues were removed from the cities.

Honor who?

Most of the monuments to the Confederacy were built nearly 25 years after the American Civil War ended in 1865. Today, the United States has more than 700 monuments commemorating the Confederacy.

Several monuments commemorate Union infantrymen.

On August 16, descendants of General Jackson wrote a letter titled `Monuments must go`, calling for the removal of his statues in the city of Richmond, capital of Virginia.

The phrase `Monuments must go` is becoming a hot keyword on Twitter in the US as the open letter that General Jackson’s descendants sent to Richmond officials is continuously being shared.

After a march by supporters of the Ku Klux Klan secret society and neo-Nazi groups in Charlottesville to protest the removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee, his younger brother criticized the `abuse of signatures`.

Why controversial?

The battle over Confederate monuments in America

The statue of a Confederate soldier in front of the Durham County courthouse, North Carolina, was destroyed by protesters on August 14.

Defenders of Confederate symbols say their purpose is not to memorialize the slavery that Southern states fought to preserve.

According to them, the civil war that the Confederacy waged was aimed at fighting for `states’ rights` and against the federal system.

But most historians say the symbols of the Confederacy only recall slavery.

Maine Governor Paul LePage said on August 17 that the removal of Confederate monuments was simply meant to erase history.

He even likened the removal of Confederate monuments to the removal of monuments commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

`To me, this is like going to New York City and tearing down the memorial to those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks,` he emphasized.

No longer a harmless symbol

The battle over Confederate monuments in America

The statue of General Robert E. Lee in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA was removed in May. Photo: AP.

In 2015, just a few days after the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, opened fire and killed 9 parishioners at an African-American church.

Photos of him with the Confederate flag changed the way many Americans viewed symbols of the Confederacy.

After the South Carolina state government decided to take down the Confederate flag from the headquarters of this state’s legislative assembly, many other local governments also responded.

Now, a second wave of efforts to remove symbols representing the Confederacy continues and sparked the violent events in Charlottesville.

Also last week, many acts of vandalism targeting Confederate monuments also occurred in the states of Ohio, North Carolina and Maryland.

Results of a survey released by Marist on August 17 showed that 62% of Americans believe Confederate monuments should be retained as `historical symbols.`