Thursday, May 9, 2024

A Confederate monument was removed in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday, following an order by the city’s mayor that ended years of debate. This comes as officials across the United States are grappling with the presence of memorials on public property that commemorate the Confederacy.

Donna Deegan, the Democratic mayor of Jacksonville, ordered the removal of two statues that were part of the “Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy” monument in Springfield Park.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, a crowd watched as a construction crew used a crane to remove one statue from the gazebo in Springfield Park. This statue depicted a woman in robes carrying a Confederate flag. A second statue, showing a woman reading to two children, was then taken off a pedestal inside the gazebo. The removal was livestreamed on social media.

Ms. Deegan stated on Wednesday that the monument had been erected as part of a campaign to promote discriminatory Jim Crow laws and to intimidate Black people.

The memorial was commissioned by the Florida division of the United Confederate Veterans, a national organization that promoted the “lost cause” myth that the Civil War was a noble fight for states’ rights.

The statues were erected in 1915, a year after the United Confederate Veterans held an annual reunion in Jacksonville that was attended by about 8,000 former soldiers. Five months after the reunion, the city renamed the park Confederate Park. It was renamed Springfield Park in 2020.

Ms. Deegan emphasized that the removal of the statues from the gazebo, which will remain standing, was not an attempt to erase history, but “to show that we’ve learned from it.”

“By removing the Confederate monument from Springfield Park, we signal a belief in our shared humanity,” she added.

Discussions about the fate of the statues began in 2020 under Jacksonville’s previous mayor, Lenny Curry, a Republican. Confederate monuments were coming under renewed scrutiny after the police killing of George Floyd.

Since 2020, hundreds of Confederate memorials have been renamed or removed from federal, state, and municipal land. Last week, a federal judge cleared the way for the removal of a Confederate memorial from Arlington National Cemetery.

The removal of the Jacksonville memorial has attracted criticism from conservatives, including Dean Black, a Florida State representative, who filed legislation to block cities in the state from removing Confederate and other historical memorials.

On social media, Mr. Black condemned the decision to remove the statues as a “stunning abuse of power.”

The City Council voted down proposals to remove the Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy memorial when Mr. Curry was in office. Then earlier this month, Jacksonville’s general counsel determined that Ms. Deegan did not need approval from the City Council if the statues could be removed without city funds.

The $187,000 cost of the removal was paid for with a grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund and anonymous donors, Ms. Deegan said.

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