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Story highlights

718 monuments and statues supporting Confederate causes existed last year

Virginia is the state with the most Confederate symbols with 223

Trump on Tuesday said removing a Confederate memorial was "changing history"

(CNN) —  

As a growing number of American cities worked to remove statues commemorating the Confederacy, President Donald Trump defended the statues again Thursday, arguing that removing them uproots American “culture” and history.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he said in a series of tweets. “You……..can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also……the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

Defending the statues, which have become the center of a raging controversy about whether they glorify racism, was the catalyst for protests that ultimately turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

Centered in the Deep South but stretching from California to Massachusetts, roughly 1,500 Confederate symbols still exist on public land more than 150 years after the conclusion of the Civil War.

Roughly half of those symbols – 718 of them as of last year – are monuments and statues. Three in four of them were built before 1950, but at least one in 10 of them were dedicated during the civil rights movement or since the year 2000.

This is according to 2016 data from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based advocacy nonprofit organization that tracks civil rights and hate crimes in the United States.

President Donald Trump made headlines Tuesday for saying that removing a Confederate memorial is “changing history,” while defending some people protesting with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

“So this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” Trump said. “I wonder: is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Trump condemned neo-Nazis and white supremacists on both Monday and Tuesday.

The list of Confederate symbols also includes 109 public schools – at least 39 of which were built during the civil rights movement, after the Brown v. Board of Education case desegregating public schools in the United States. A quarter of the schools have majority African-American student bodies, according to the SPLC.

Virginia is the state with the most Confederate symbols with 223. Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina and Alabama each have more than 100 Confederate symbols each. Fewer than one in 10 symbols are in states that remained in the Union during the Civil War.

Local and national leaders across the United States have recently mulled whether Confederate symbols primarily honor the past or perpetuate harmful beliefs. The Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina State House in 2015 after a racially based shooting in a Charleston church.

Other cities have grappled with similar decisions since then.

A woman was arrested on Tuesday in Durham, North Carolina, after a crowd tore down a Confederate statue there.

The list, which was created last year, includes 10 major military bases and nine state holidays or observances. Other symbols, scattered across the United States, include everything from flags to highways, parks, bridges, lakes and state holidays.

The SPLC excluded an additional 2,600 symbols that the group considered primarily historical, like battlefields, museums and cemeteries.