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Baker County residents weigh-in on controversial courthouse mural

Baker County board takes public comments on controversial mural
Baker County board takes public comments on controversial mural

BAKER COUNTY, Fla. – Baker County commissioners held a meeting via Zoom on Tuesday evening, listening to pubic comments on a controversial mural in the county courthouse.

The mural, which has hung in the courthouse for more than 20 years, includes a depiction of three hooded Ku Klux Klan members on horseback. It was commissioned by a group of citizens more than two decades ago.

It’s not the first time the mural has brought controversy. Back in 2015, News4Jax covered the same topic. The mural remained.

Most of the comments heard Tuesday night were dramatically in favor of removing or repainting the piece by a margin of about 12-2.

“While many of the people that are against the mural, wanting it moved altered or even destroyed, have lived in Baker county for years themselves. It seems like just in the past month that it’s become offensive to them,” said Joshua Mullens, the only person who spoke in favor of keeping the mural up in the courthouse--one other commenter in favor of keeping the mural commented only in a message on the chat feature. “I asked why is that? My thoughts are, we’re being bombarded by a young generation that is desperate to get behind a cause any calls in the past couple of months, the painting has not been changed or altered the location of the painting has not been changed. So why is it that it was not offensive until the whole country’s attention was placed on race issues?”

Most of the comments delivered were in favor of removing the mural from the courthouse, some offering an alternative spot in the Baker County Historical Society or with the family of the artist, Gene Barber.

“As a community, we should all be afforded the opportunity to feel a sense of pride when entering government-owned buildings,” Kaila Givens said. “You and the mural should not cause sadness, outrage, or distress.”

“My question to Baker county officials, ‘Why is this painting magnified in the courthouse of justice? The thought of the Baker County courthouse, to me, or any other justice to be a place of justice, equality, hope, and founded In God We Trust, no matter the circumstances for all the past cannot be erased but it can most definitely be at hand,” said Monical Segall.

More comments were emailed and will be placed into the public record as part of the minutes of the meeting.

As for the next steps, one of the county commissioners must place the topic on the agenda in order for the commission to address the issues.

Chairman James Bennett acknowledged that it’s a very sensitive topic, but said that commissioners would follow proper procedure in the meetings.

The next county commissioner’s meeting is scheduled to take place July 21..

About the Author:

Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.