Curry Weighs In On Hemming Park, Provides Update On Confederate Monuments Removal

Aug 5, 2020

During Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s COVID-19 media briefing Wednesday afternoon, he weighed in on the renaming of Downtown’s Hemming Park and provided some context on the city’s removal of Confederate monuments and markers. 

Tensions flared among a City Council committee Monday when councilmen Danny Becton and Al Ferraro suggested the renaming of the park should not be to James Weldon Johnson Park, but rather Veterans Memorial Park.

Councilman Rory Diamond then tweeted out a suggested compromise Tuesday to name the park after Johnson, and the plaza inside the park to Veterans Memorial Plaza.

“I think it's a local hero,” Curry said about Johnson. “I think it's appropriate. Council made a decision, [and] I guess a compromise, and I support it. I think it's a good idea. I look forward to signing the bill.” 

In late July, activists held a rally outside City Hall demanding a timeline for when other Confederate monuments and markers would be removed in the city, which the mayor promised during a unity march in June.  

During his Wednesday briefing, Curry said the monuments and markers were being evaluated by Jacksonville Historical Society and Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.  

“They're not going to be sold. They're not going to be destroyed. They are historical markers, they're going to be removed from city property as determined by a process and a group of people that will make that decision as a group,” he said. 

“It's not going to be unilaterally made by this office,” Curry added. 

In June, Curry also said he was going to be introducing legislation in July to bring state and local officials together with community leaders and activists on racial issues facing the city. 

“Nothing's been introduced at this time,” Curry said.

Curry said he doesn’t want to get ahead of the newly formed Social Justice and Community Investment Committee, which was recently created and just started holding meetings. 

“The City Council has a committee on this, and we're going to work with them to get an appropriate bill that will address some of those concerns,” Curry said. 

During his briefing, the mayor also mentioned that additional $3 million in financial assistance will be coming for small businesses, and for seniors and people with disabilities.

The money for small businesses will go to those on a waiting list, who were unable to get the first round of funding in July. For seniors and people with disabilities, the application for assistance will be coming in the next few weeks, according to Curry.

The mayor also mentioned a partnership with Duval County Public Schools to get teachers more COVID-19 testing. More details on that will be coming soon, according to Curry. 

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.