JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group of Northeast Florida activists set out Thursday morning on a three-day, 40-mile walk from Jacksonville to St. Augustine to draw attention to its call for the removal of Confederate monuments.
The "March for Change" was organized by Take 'Em Down Jax, which calls the monuments symbols of hate. Members said they want the statues removed and relocated, because they don't belong in public places.
"We want to march for a change to raise awareness about the insidious and horrifying nature of racism on the lives of people of color," said Ben Frazier, with Tax 'Em Down Jax and the Northside Coalition. "That one six-letter word: racism."
Members of the group and others plan to walk from Jacksonville to the Ancient City, ending with a rally scheduled Saturday in St. Augustine.
Confederate Soldiers Memorial, a 62-foot granite shaft erected in Hemming Park in 1898 is topped by a Confederate soldier at rest. A bronze plaque at the base honors Gens. J.J. Dickinson, Kirby Smith, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. It was taken down June 9, 2020.
Last summer, following a violent clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and counter-protesters, Jacksonville and St. Augustine city leaders began looking at removing or relocating Confederate monuments.
Take 'Em Down Jax is demanding two monuments in Jacksonville and another two in historic St. Augustine be removed:
Counter-protesters have said these monuments represent Southern heritage, but groups like Take 'Em Down Jax disagree.
“What the detractors and the counter-protesters are attempting to support and defend is not Southern heritage but Confederate heritage,” Frazier said. “I suggest to you there is, in fact, a difference.”
While the march focuses specifically on four monuments, the groups said, one of the main goals is to "connect the dots of the color line of what happened in history to what's happening today."
The march started in Hemming Park, proceeded along Laura Street to Main Street, and then proceeded across the Main Street Bridge. The marchers will follow U.S. 1 to St. Augustine.
Marchers will spend the night along the route at designated locations, camping out in parking lots and by the roadside. Others will be be joining the march along the route.
William McKenzie said Thursday in Hemming Park as the march began that Americans can’t remove every bad deed from history. All we can do is learn from it and move ahead in a better direction, he said.
“All of this is a part of history, and I take it like that. It is not offensive to me,” McKenzie said. “What it stands for offends me, you know what I mean, in some sense but not to that great degree.”