By Alyssa Schnugg
The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors voted Monday night to leave the Confederate statue in front of the Courthouse where it has sat facing South Lamar Boulevard for more than 115 years.
In June, the Board held a special meeting to hear from citizens about the statue but took no action during that meeting, stating it would be brought up for discussion during the July 6 meeting. However, when the agenda was released late last week, no mention of the statue was listed on the agenda.
Board President Mike Roberts added the discussion back to the agenda at the start of Monday’s meeting.
“Here lately there’s been a demand that we take a stance one way or another,” Roberts said. ‘There was never any intention to kick down the road. This board was committed to finding out all we could to make the decision easier. Believe it or not, this board does care. The board wanted input from the rest of the community.”
Supervisor Larry Gillespie made the motion to keep the statue on the Square.
View the entire Board of Supervisor’s meeting online here.
“I do understand how things like statues and street names can be offensive to some. But we have to make the call on what the government should or shouldn’t change,” he said. “Most of the protesters here have been respectful and peaceful and I thank them for that. But I also stand firmly against those who want to force their demands through violence and intimidation. I would rather focus on limited resources, jobs, family and security. That is how I believe we will best serve our community.”
Supervisor Chad McLarty seconded the motion and said he had hoped the board would have had more time to consider the issue.
“This will be the third time in eight years the county supervisors were the subject of the monument has come up to this degree and every time it’s been after something tragic has occurred somewhere else,” he said. “Racism is a terrible thing, just like slavery was. Racism is a two-way street though. I myself have been a victim of racism due to the color of my skin and I’ve also been a victim of police brutality … The monument is for the men in this county who didn’t make it home. It was put up to honor them with an unknown soldier. It’s not a statue of Robert E. Lee or Nathan Bedford Forrest. If that was the case, then I would agree to move it to a more appropriate place. I’ve had numerous conversations with African American friends of mine. I have yet to have a conversation with any of them that the monument is an issue with them.”
Peaceful protests have occurred on and around the Square for the last three weeks, by groups both in support and against removing the statue. Roberts said the protests have been a strain on local police who have to be on scene during each protest.
Roberts said that while the board voted to leave the statue in place, more conversations can be had.
“This doesn’t have to stop today,” he said. “We can continue to talk. We can continue to love each other and continue to bring this community together. Let’s put the hate aside.”
After the meeting, the supervisors met for an executive session on Courthouse security. Roberts reported the board received an update from Lafayette County Sheriff Joey East and no action was taken.