A group called Save Southern Heritage is asking the Jacksonville City Council to put the question of whether to remove Confederate monuments up for a public vote.
The group said city residents overwhelmingly oppose moving the monuments to museums, according to a poll it commissioned.
Tensions ran high at downtown Jacksonville’s Hemming Park Tuesday as the group called for a referendum on Confederate monuments.
A black man walking through the park yelled obscenities at the dozen or so gathered for the announcement — one was dressed as a Confederate soldier. Others held Confederate battle flags or the Confederate national flag.
City Council President Anna Lopez-Brosche last week called for an inventory of Confederate monuments and wants to eventually move them off public property.
But Save Southern Heritage leader Seber Newsome said that’s tantamount to destroying history, and three-quarters of residents oppose their removal, according to a public opinion poll.
“This survey confirms our steadfast belief that Ms. Brosche is way off the political spectrum by associating herself with ‘radical’ groups like Antifa, [short for ‘anti-fascists,’] and Black Lives Matter ‘extremists,’” he said.
Activists calling themselves Take Em Down Jax have been calling for the monuments’ removal, saying they were erected to intimidate African-Americans. As NPR reports, most Confederate statues were erected after 1877, in the time between the end of the Reconstruction era and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s, when states began passing what are known as Jim Crow laws, highly restrictive boundaries aimed at black people. Confederate memorials were created during this time as a response to the struggle for African-American rights.
But Newsome said that wasn’t the purpose of Hemming Park’s statue of a nameless Confederate.
“It was put there in 1898 by Charles Hemming, a Confederate soldier,” he said.
He and his group are also campaigning for City Council to protect all Confederate monuments from any future removal attempts and calling for the creation of a new Hemming monument honoring a prominent African-American.