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Crowd rallies to keep Confederate memorial in downtown St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Hundreds gathered at the Plaza de la Constitucion on Sunday to try and save the Oldest City’s Confederate memorial. They carried American and Confederate flags and marched around the monument, now behind a construction fence.

Last month, St. Augustine’s City Commission voted 3-2 to have the monument removed. A study is underway to study how a stone that’s over a century old can be safely moved.

Ginger DuPont added her American flag to the fence that now surrounds the memorial.

“I know that there are people that share differences of opinion about it,” DuPont said. “I’ve never felt that way about it and, all the time that I’ve lived here, it’s just really saddening to see the division across our community.

A group called Defend St. Augustine has more than 300 signatures on a petition to ask the commission to reconsider its decision to remove the stone honoring the city’s Confederate war dead.

“If we erase our history, we’re doomed to repeat it,” Mark McQueen said. “I believe it should be brought to a vote to the people. This is the people’s.”

There is also a lawsuit pending from the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy trying to stop it from happening. The 300 plaintiffs believe it may go before a judge this week.

“This is my family’s memorial and I feel like it’s just the beginning of what we’re doing to eradicate all of the history in our nation,” Jill Pacetti said. “It’s not about this memorial; it’s about a bigger picture.”

Mariana Henderson said she is also a descendant of someone whose name is on the memorial.

“St. Johns County, St. Augustine is based on nothing but history, and if we destroy that history, it’s going to be replaced with violence and anger because people are going to forget where they came from,” Henderson said.

Henderson said she’s hurt by the racial climate across the country but believes if one memorial comes down, they all need to.

“Unfortunately, you have police officers that are killing black men and black young women and all these young African-Americans,” she said. “Tand the heat is so horrible that that one violent rage act is now representing other white people.”

Asked for comment on Sunday’s demonstration, the city said that due to pending litigation and out of respect for the judicial process, it would decline to comment.


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