Hattiesburg mayor calls for dialogue on relocation of Forrest Co. Confederate monument
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker addressed calls to relocate a Confederate monument that sits beside the Forrest County Courthouse in downtown Hattiesburg Wednesday night during a Facebook live.
“History cannot be erased,” Barker said. “However, there comes a time when some symbols - whether a state flag or a monument - do not need to be front and center. Stories can be told, lessons can be taught and people can be remembered without magnifying those symbols that many rightfully deem offensive.”
Barker said the monument sits on Forrest County property and the city has no legal authority to remove it, but assured residents that the city is listening to concerns over the monument.
“In a building that represents people having access to equal rights, whether that be the court system or the ballot, is it right for people to have to walk to that building and pass under the shadow of a symbol that evokes very painful feelings regarding a very real, yet wrong, chapter in our history?" Barker asked.
Barker said Forrest County has taken steps in recent years toward reconciliation and recognizing wrongs of the past, including leading the efforts to build a statue commemorating civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer.
“I trust their ability to lead on this issue,” Barker said. "I’m asking them and offering the city’s assistance to begin a real dialogue about the future of that monument and actively explore a more appropriate location for it to live.”
The mayor said he is grateful for those who chose to raise their voices and peacefully protest.
“We work across agencies and departments to provide safe environments to peacefully assemble, because when the entire world is looking for an opportunity pinpoint negativity and tear down efforts to make a better community, we have the opportunity to be different," Barker said. "We have the opportunity to spark hope and change for the days and weeks to come through healthy conversation. So know that when you speak, we will listen.”
You can watch Barker’s full address below:
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