JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Neighborhoods Committee of Jacksonville City Council voted 4-1 Monday morning to defeat an ordinance that would set aside $1.3 million to remove a Confederate statue in Springfield Park. A few hours later, the Transportation Committee defeated the bill by a vote of 4-2.
In recent weeks, the statue has been a hot button topic that has received passionate feedback from the public -- both for and against the removal of the monument. It came up numerous times in public comment over the last few weeks when it came up for discussion on the City Council’s agenda.
Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, the only member to vote for removal at both the committee meetings, was shocked at the sudden turn.
“There are so many elements of concern,” Morgan said. “I think the biggest thing to me is there was no discussion at all ... because we have listened to our community talk about this for weeks. But yet when we get to vote on it, there is no discussion.”
Council debating taking down confederate monument in Springfield . neighborhood committee voted against spending $1.3 M to do that. Still has 2 other committees and full council. Will have more at https://t.co/qVMPVWlubx @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/pXhIA5Nsvf— Jim Piggott (@wjxtjimpiggott) November 1, 2021
Councilman Aaron Bowman said before calling the vote that because the statue features a woman rather than a Confederate soldier or other aspects of the Civil War, it does not need to be removed.
“Look, the Civil War was absolutely horrible. The fact that we had slavery; the fact that we had to fight over slavery. It (was) a terrible time in our history. Any monument out there that represents support of that, it absolutely has no place anywhere, especially on public property,” Bowman said. “This monument is completely different. It shows the war and the casualty of war to the entire community and the entire family. This is not about the Civil War at all, but it’s how we try to resolve something without conflict.”
Morgan was joined by Councilman Matt Carlucci as the only yes votes in the afternoon committee meeting.
Councilwoman Randy Defour, who voted against the funding, said its actually a monument that honors women and children, which is something supporters from both sides of the issue can agree on.
She obviously can’t speak for Northside Coalition President Ben Frazier, one of the most vocal opponents all Confederate monuments.
“Just like the elected officials from a different era; they are overlooking the fact that these monuments represent racial hatred and a government which fought a Civil War to keep black people in chains,” Frazier said.
In Memory of the Women of Our Southland Let this mute but eloquent
structure speak to generations
to come, of a generation of
the past. Let it repeat
perpetually the imperishable
story of our women of the 60's.
Those noble women who
sacrificed their all
upon their country's altar. Unto their memory, the Florida Division
of the United Confederate Veterans
affectionately dedicates this monument.
PREVIOUS STORY: 3 City Council members endorse removal of Confederate statue from Springfield Park
The Women of the Southern Confederacy monument, which depicts a woman reading to two children, was funded and erected by the Florida Division of the United Confederate Veterans. It was designed in 1914 by sculptor Allen George Newman and dedicated on Oct. 26, 1915, in what was at the time called Confederate Park. The park was renamed Springfield Park last summer and the statute has been wrapped for a year because it was being vandalized.
The city’s most prominent Confederate monument, a statue of a soldier in what was at the time was called Hemming Plaza, was removed in June 2021 and Mayor Lenny Curry announced intentions last year to remove all Confederate monuments off city property.
Curry’s administration is on the record supporting removal of this statue, but Curry himself has not spoken on the issue recently.
City officials said that removal cost $8,000. Because of the size and complexity, the Women of the Confederacy monument is much larger and more complex, which is why the costs for removal are far higher.
The ordinance to fund the removal of this monument will be considered by the Finance Committee on Tuesday afternoon before going to a vote of the full City Council, which is expected next week.
Seber Newsome III, who has spoken repeatedly in support of all the monuments, considers Monday’s committee votes a victory.
“Yes, this is a monument put up to honor women,” Newsome said. “It’s a feminist statue if you want to look at it that way. All women and Jacksonville should be upset that they even talk about moving this.”
Political observers in City Hall believe the tide has turned against the bill and it will not pass Council, which comes as a surprise to many who thought the city would continue with the movement to take Confederate statues down.
“The scoundrels on the City Council lack the conviction to govern with courage and Mayor Curry still refuses to stand by his word to remove the Confederate monuments,” Frazier said.