Community members call for relocation of Confederate statue

Updated: Jun. 11, 2020 at 7:14 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - More people are asking for the removal of the Confederate statue in front of the Forrest County Circuit Courthouse after the death of George Floyd sparked protests around the country.

The statue was erected in 1910 and is engraved with “to the men and women of the Confederacy.”

Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker asked the Forrest County Board of Supervisors to begin searching for a new location for the monument during a Facebook address Wednesday night. The monument sits on county property and cannot be removed by the City of Hattiesburg.

“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.”

Board President David Hogan released the following statement Thursday:

“I’m always glad to hear my constituents’ opinions regarding County issues, including the Mayor’s. With respect to asking the County to start a dialogue, I’m sorry that the Mayor hasn’t been present at our last two board meetings since George Floyd’s death, where we’ve done just that as part of our public forum. However, I do share the Mayor’s confidence in our elected county leadership, especially when it comes to local race relations. Whether it’s maintaining our diverse workforce through the current coronavirus crisis, making dozens of public board appointments reflecting our community’s diversity, participating in searches that installed minority executives at local public and private institutions, or erecting a monument to a local civil rights hero, the Board of Supervisors is rightfully proud of its track record. We look forward to continuing that tradition at out board meeting this Monday and plan to attend the council meeting Tuesday to see how the Mayor plans to address related City matters.”

Hattiesburg Councilwoman Deborah Delgado says this statue doesn’t represent a positive moment in American history.

“It was as a statement, ‘Yeah we lost the Civil War, but we’re going put this thing in your face to say this was our intent. We still think this way and you need to shut up and take it,'” said Delgado.

Delgado added many of her constituents no longer want it there either.

“People in my community that it offends and it probably offends other equitable minded citizens all over do not want it to continue there,” said Delgado

Christopher Preston says this is part of moving forward after George Floyd’s death.

“The enrage was necessary and now we’re moving to a place where people are starting to feel empowered,” Preston said.

Preston’s group Ground Zero wants to keep discussions civil about removing the statue.

“I want the people to know that we’re not trying to disrespect," Preston said. “We don’t believe in defacing, we don’t believe in disrespecting these statues, but we do want to see it displaced.”

Barker doesn’t think moving the statue would erase it from history.

“People can be remembered, stories can be told, lessons can be taught without magnifying those symbols that some deem offensive,” Barker said.

Several marches are planned this weekend, one of which is a Black Lives Matter march that will end at the statue on Saturday.

Community members say they will also be at the Forrest County Coard of Supervisors meeting on Monday to ask for its removal.

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