The mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, is pushing forward on plans to remove Confederate symbols from government grounds after the devastating attack in Virginia that left one dead and 19 injured in a clash over white nationalism.
Gray said he had planned to make the announcement next week but that the events in Charlottesville “accelerated the announcement.”
“We have thoroughly examined this issue, and heard from many of our citizens,” he said in the statement posted on Saturday.
The statues of John Hunt Morgan, a Confederate general, and John C. Breckinridge, the 14th vice president of the United States who also served as the Confederate secretary of war, are on the grounds of Lexington’s former courthouse. Morgan was a Confederate general and slave owner. Breckinridge, a former U.S. vice president and congressman, was expelled from the Senate after joining the Confederate Army. He was the last Confederate Secretary of War.
Efforts to remove Confederate symbols, most notably statues and the flag, from public parks and buildings intensified in 2015 after a white supremacist, Dylann Roof, killed nine black worshipers at a church in Charleston, S.C.
As the events in Charlottesville and elsewhere show, the removal of Confederate memorials and symbols can have deadly effects. White supremacists had originally decided to hold their rally in the Virginia town known more for being a quiet college town than political activism, as a result of plans to remove a statue of Robert E Lee there. That rally was quickly dispersed by police over violent skirmishes between the white supremacists and counter-protesters.
Under state law, the Lexington city council must petition the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission to remove the statues, as well a propose a place to move them to. The Urban County Council will be asked to vote to support a petition to the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission to move the statues to Veterans Park.
Veterans Park, on the southern outskirts of the city, has been proposed as a new location for the statues, which are currently on the grounds of the old county courthouse in downtown Lexington.
The city council will vote on a motion to submit the petition on Tuesday, Gray said.
‘I think this is a good solution and the right thing to do,’ Lexington Vice Mayor Steve Kay told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
‘I think moving the statues to Veterans Park will allow the city to still honor history. But we will also be able to add additional signage to give the statues the appropriate context and explain how they came to be and what was going on in Lexington at that time,’ Kay said.