ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A controversial Confederate monument in a St. Augustine plaza that sparked protests could be on the move -- depending on a vote anticipated Monday by the City Commission.
According to the Visit St. Augustine website, the Confederate monument overlooking the east end of the Plaza de la Constitucion was erected seven years after the close of the American Civil War.
It bears the words: “They died far from the home that gave them birth by comrades honored and by comrades mourned. They have crossed the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”
The monument’s location has spurred controversy over the years. Some have called for its removal, citing racial insensitivity. Others have advocated for it to stay where it is, saying that relocating it would be akin to removing history and dishonoring those who gave their lives.
The monument’s fate now rests in the hands of the St. Augustine City Commission, which will discuss the removal of the monument at Monday’s meeting.
St. Augustine mayor Tracy Upchurch told News4Jax, “I would anticipate that there will be a vote.”
A few years ago, after protests calling for the monument to be taken down, a city task force opted to keep the monument in place but add plaques to provide historical context.
Upchurch said that while that was the right step at the time, the events over the last several weeks show now is the time to take a new look.
“At this point in time, given what has happened in a fast-moving world, it’s not enough,” Upchurch said.
Upchurch said he attended several of the peaceful demonstrations in St. Augustine. Like many, he was surprised last week when the monument in Jacksonville was taken down before sunrise.
“Clearly, the actions taken in Jacksonville have had a significant ripple effect down to St. Augustine,” Upchurch said.
He said moving the monument wouldn’t be about destroying the history but about relocating it.
“But the need of our community to address racial inequality outweighs, in my mind, retaining the monument in its current location,” Upchurch said.
Upchurch said his goal is to have a community discussion and to be transparent with the public given the vast interest. If the commission votes to move it, the monument will likely go into storage until a permanent location is decided.
Upchurch said the city would explore several options, including moving it to a cemetery or private property somewhere.
“I cannot conceive that the commission would ever vote to, quote, unquote, destroy the monument,” Upchurch said. “It is not going to disappear overnight if the commission goes in that direction.”
Overall, he said the plaza is home to many stories of the past but believes this is the right conversation to have for the future. In the end, the commissioners will have the final say.
The Plaza de la Constitucion is home to a second is memorial that stands at the east end of the plaza in memory of Confederate General William Loring. The Loring monument is owned by the state of Florida and is managed by the University of Florida. The city has no jurisdiction over it, and its fate is not up for discussion.
Monday’s virtual meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., and the public is invited to weigh in. The meeting will be streamed from the City of St. Augustine website: Click here.