A Confederate monument was torn down in Jacksonville, Florida, on Wednesday, after an order from the city's mayor ended years of debate, as officials across the United States place monuments on public property commemorating 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 a statue, depicting a robed woman carrying a Confederate flag, from the roof of the observation deck that housed the monument. A second statue, depicting a woman reading to two children, was then removed from a pedestal inside the viewing platform. The elimination was broadcast live on social media.
Ms. Deegan said in a statement on Wednesday that the monument had been erected as part of a campaign to promote discriminatory Jim Crow laws and intimidate black people.
The monument was commissioned by the Florida chapter 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 meeting in Jacksonville attended by about 8,000 former soldiers. Five months after the meeting, the city renamed the park Confederate Park. It was renamed Springfield Park in 2020.
Ms Deegan said the removal of the statues from the viewing platform, which will remain standing, was not an attempt to erase history, but “to show that we have learned from it”.
“By removing the Confederate monument from Springfield Park, we signal a belief in our shared humanity,” he added.
Discussions over the fate of the statues began in 2020 under former Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican. Confederate monuments were coming under renewed scrutiny after the police killing of George Floyd.
Since 2020, hundreds of Confederate monuments have been renamed or removed from federal, state, and city lands. Last week, a federal judge cleared the way for the removal of a Confederate monument from Arlington National Cemetery.
The removal of the Jacksonville monument has drawn criticism from conservatives, including Dean Black, a Florida state representative, who introduced legislation to prevent cities in the state from removing Confederate monuments and other historical monuments.
On social media, Mr. Black condemned the decision to remove the statues as a “staggering abuse of power.”
The City Council rejected proposals to remove the Memorial to the Women of the Southern Confederacy monument when Mr. Curry was in office. Then, earlier this month, Jacksonville's general counsel determined that Ms. Deegan did not need City Council approval if the statues could be removed without city funds.
The $187,000 removal cost was paid for by a grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund and anonymous donors, Ms. Deegan said.
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