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Confederate statues removed from Jacksonville park

Dec 28, 2023, 9:51 AM

Crews begin the process of removing Confederate statues from a monument in Jacksonville's Springfie...

Crews begin the process of removing Confederate statues from a monument in Jacksonville's Springfield Park early Wednesday. Mandatory Credit: Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union/AP

(CNN) — A pair of statues honoring the Confederacy in Jacksonville’s Springfield Park were taken down Wednesday by order of the Florida city’s mayor.

“This is not in any way an attempt to erase history but to show that we’ve learned from it. That when we know better, we do better by and for each other,” Democratic Mayor Donna Deegan said in a statement.

The statues depict two female figures – one with children inside a granite canopy and the other on top of the structure. It was dedicated in 1915, according to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the same year the venue’s name was changed to Confederate Park. The city renamed it Springfield Park in 2020.

Video from CNN affiliate WJXT showed the figures loaded on pallets for removal with the granite monument remaining in place. Deegan said the $187,000 cost of the removal was paid for with private funds raised by the local group 904WARD, which describes itself as “committed to creating a community of inclusion for all of Jacksonville, FL’s residents.”

“Confederate monuments, often erected during periods of racial tension and division, serve as painful reminders of a divisive past and contribute to a climate that perpetuates inequality,” 904WARD said in a statement.

The removal was criticized by the City Council’s Republican President Ron Salem, who told WJXT that he believed the mayor exceeded her authority by removing the statues without the Council’s approval. “What are the ramifications of this going forward?” Salem told the station Wednesday. “Can the mayor raise money privately to do other things? Build a bridge? Tear down the jail?”

Deegan did have the authority to remove the statues because they were located on property controlled by the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, the city’s top lawyer said in an opinion released by the mayor’s office. “The Mayor is the exclusive executive with authority over the operation and administration of the City’s parks and parks property,” said General Counsel Michael Fackler.

Another statue that depicted a Confederate soldier in a downtown Jacksonville park was removed in 2020 as cities across the US saw protests following the murder of George Floyd, WJXT reported. Then-Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, promised at the time to bring down all of the city’s Confederate monuments, but the City Council has repeatedly resisted requests to earmark money for the removals.

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Confederate statues removed from Jacksonville park