Campaigners are calling for the removal of twin Emancipation memorials in Washington DC and Boston that depict a freed slave kneeling at Abraham Lincoln’s feet.

The Emancipation Memorial, also known as the Emancipation Group and the Freedman’s Memorial, was erected in Washington’s Lincoln Park in 1876. Three years later, a copy was installed in Boston, home to the statue’s white creator, Thomas Ball.

Earlier this week, many demonstrators gathered to demand the removal of the original in Washington, where the Army activated about 400 unarmed National Guard personnel ahead of calls circulating on social media to tear it down Thursday evening.

While leading the campaign to get the Boston memorial removed, Tory Bullock, a Black actor and activist said, “I’ve been watching this man on his knees since I was a kid”.

“It’s supposed to represent freedom but instead represents us still beneath someone else. I would always ask myself, “If he’s free, why is he still on his knees?’” Bullock said.

The memorial has been on Boston’s radar at least since 2018, when it launched a comprehensive review of whether public sculptures, monuments and other artworks reflected the city’s diversity and didn’t offend communities of color.

On Monday, thousands of protesters tried to topple the statue of a former US President Andrew Jackson near the White House as police responded with pepper spray to break up new demonstrations that erupted in Washington.

A wave of nationwide rallies calling for racial justice has swept the United States since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Earlier this month, police broke up a peaceful rally in Lafayette Park moments before President Donald Trump walked from the White House for a photo-op at a historic church damaged by arson the previous night.

On Sunday, one person died and 11 more were wounded in a shooting in the US city of Minneapolis.

Trump has delivered blunt instructions to local leaders confronting the protests, telling authorities to “dominate the streets,” and he has been unapologetic about the heavy deployment of forces.