77ºF

Controversy swirls over Confederate monuments in St. Augustine

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Around the country, there is demand for Confederate monuments to be removed.

In Jacksonville, one of three monuments have been removed, and Mayor Lenny Curry says others are coming down too. In St. Augustine, several Confederate monuments are located at the heart of the city, which have sparked debate for years.

The Rev. Ron Rawls of St. Paul AME Church has been vocal about the removal of these monuments since 2017.

“It’s really amazing that the city of St. Augustine is slower and less progressive than NASCAR as it relates to the Confederacy,” Rawls said.

In the heart of St. Augustine, a memorial at the Plaza de la Constitucion -- built in 1872 to remember the Confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War -- has been the center of controversy.

“It’s very disrespectful to think that black people would have to fund a symbol like that in taxpayer space on top of it being glorified,” Rawls said.

Rawls said he’s called on the City Commission to remove two Confederate monuments in Downtown St. Augustine for years.

“St. Augustine is the oldest city in the nation, so what does that mean? That means that our racism is the oldest racism in the nation,” Rawls said.

One Confederate monument is on the eastside of the plaza honoring 46 men who died serving the Confederate states. The other, managed by the University of Florida honoring Confederate General William Loring and his service in the Civil War with a Confederate flag on it at the Governor’s House Cultural Center and Museum.

In 2018, a task force banded together, which decided rather than removing the monuments, it would contextualize them by adding plaques.

-
-

“It’s worse than even not doing anything at all," Rawls said. “The monument is still there, still glorified, and black people look at it and see what it is, and it’s an embarrassment when they walk through the town plaza.”

He said the monuments display racism in the historic city -- front and center -- to the millions of visitors every year.

“I think that this is really meaningful, that people are coming together all across the country for change and that hopefully something even more meaningful than just removing monuments will come from it,” said Jasmine Jimenez, who was visiting from Palm Beach County.

JJ, Jimenez’ father, said that for his family, one of the monuments is important because it doesn’t glorify, it honors the Spanish Americans who gave their lives. He added, however, that he does recognize the historic symbolism behind these Confederate monuments nationwide.

“I know that the Confederacy means a lot to southern Americans," JJ Jimenez said. “It is a cultural, unifying force, but we need to look at the broader scheme of things in our nation, and our nation needs to be unified.”

News4Jax spoke with St. Augustine Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline who said the Commission should reconsider its decision to relocate the monument, as she has stated in the past.

Also is the plaza, there a monument to commemorate the civil rights movement, including the Foot Soldiers Monument, dedicated to those who participated in the movement in the 1960s in St. Augustine.

A request for comment from the St. Augustine city manager regarding the monuments was not immediately returned. News4Jax has also requested comment from the University of Florida, which manages the property where the Loring Monument sits.

The Loring Memorial
The Loring Memorial

About the Author: