JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday voted against a resolution that asked Mayor Lenny Curry and the city to propose a plan that would budget $500,000 to remove remaining Confederate monuments.
The debate comes two years after Curry said they need to come down. A controversial monument still stands uncovered in Springfield Park. It is now the focus of much attention, dividing the council and many people living in the city.
The one monument removed two years ago was of a Confederate soldier that sat atop a pedestal, located across from City Hall. Many thought it meant a change in Jacksonville. The soldier was put away in storage, but the pedestal remains.
Specifically, Councilman Matt Carlucci’s resolution called for the removal of the statue at Springfield Park and the remaining pedestal at James Weldon Johnson Park. It requested city officials present a revised plan and timeline.
“Enough of the talk, we need some action,” Carlucci said. “Action.”
Six council members voted yes, while 13 voted no. The “no” votes were Danny Becton, Aaron Bowman, Michael Boylan, LeAnna Cumber, Randy DeFoor, Rory Diamond, Al Ferraro, Terrance Freeman, Sam Newby, Ron Salem, Randy White, Kevin Carrico and Nick Howland.
The “yes” votes included Carlucci, Garrett Dennis, Reggie Gaffney, Joyce Morgan, Ju’Coby Pittman and Brenda Priestly Jackson.
Carlucci said that just recently, he flew a drone in Springfield Park to see for himself what the flag above the monument column reveals. He says the proof is in the picture.
“It’s a Confederate flag, for sure. You know, a Confederate flag in bronze or in cloth, it doesn’t belong in a public park,” Carlucci said. “Public parks should be about unity, friendship, family fun and not something that is a divider.”
The statue has corroded some over the years, and while there was never any red or blue color, News4JAX added it to the picture, so you can see what Carlucci says he sees.
News4JAX reporter Jim Piggott asked Carlucci, “Why is this a problem?”
“Well, a Confederate flag is one of the most divisive symbols when it comes to race in our country and in our city,” Carlucci said. “It’s a symbol sometimes used to threaten people of color.”
Before the vote — the debate over the monuments dominated public discussion during Tuesday night’s meeting of the City Council. Approximately 80 people filled out a speaker card, and around 30 of those had to do with the monuments.
“The city should not support any monuments that support racism,” one person said during public comment.
“The history of Jacksonville belongs to the voters of Jacksonville,” said a man named Tony who spoke to council. “The majority of Jacksonville residents want to keep the historical monuments in place.”
“We recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and it says ‘one nation under God for liberty and justice’ and we are fighting for liberty and justice because of these monuments,” said resident Joanne Brooks.
Wells Todd, with the group Take ‘Em Down Jax also spoke during public comment.
“We’re looking at statues that represent to us as African Americans oppression, economic exploitation, social degradation, lynchings, 100 years of segregation. Those are not things to glance over and forget,” Todd said.
But some say they represent our city’s history.
“The women’s monument commemorates the sacrifices of women 1861-1865 and recognizes the lives of those women, of their fathers, husbands, sons and daughters,” one man said during public comment.
Notably, the bill wasn’t expected to pass. And Carlucci told News4JAX that he knew it would take some convincing.
“It’s going to take three or four members changing their minds,” Carlucci said. “I have put my heart and soul into this because it’s really, perhaps the most important issue I have taken on as a council member.”