By Katie Garwood
Flagler College Gargoyle (FULL)
The St. Augustine city commission listens to public comment regarding a course of action on the confederate statues in town. Rather than remove a confederate monument in St. Augustine’s downtown plaza, St. Augustine city commissioners decided Monday night to keep the memorial to soldiers who died in the Civil War, but also add “context” to better explain the complex history surrounding it.
THE STAFF RECOMMENDATION:
In approving the recommendation by St. Augustine City Manager John Regan to contextualize the monument, a five to seven-person advisory committee will be formed through a public application process confirmed by the commission. The committee will identify gaps in history, seek public input, recommend a contextualization and implementation plan and provide the cost and financing options of the plan.
HOW THE VOTES WENT:
Two commissioners, Roxanne Horvath and Leanna Freeman, said removing the monuments would cause further division in the city. Mayor Nancy Shaver and Nancy Sikes-Kline said tearing down the monuments would create a gap in an important part of the city’s history, and with contextualization, they can be used as educational tools.
“We didn’t have one black resident or neighbor speak in favor of keeping [the monuments],” said Vice Mayor Todd Neville as he predicted that the road forward will not be easy. “When we move forward with this, we have to keep that in mind and understand that that in itself is divisiveness.”
OPPOSING POINT OF VIEW:
Though the city has come to an agreement on how to handle the monuments, St. Paul AME Church Pastor Ron Rawls is still beating the drums of unrest; pointing out that there are no black city or county commissioners or people in positions of authority who could improve the situation for black people.
“When we get out of line, we make them uncomfortable and cause division,” Rawls said in his remarks. “But as long as they are comfy, we can all be one big undivided family. You can change the name from the slave market to the Plaza de la Constitucion, you can change the name from monument to memorial, but tonight, you either do what makes you comfortable or you will choose to stand on the right side of history.”
Katie Garwood contributed to this article, which has been edited. Read her full article here.