The weekly demonstrations against Confederate monuments in Jacksonville continued Friday despite threats of a counterprotest.
No one showed up to challenge Take ‘Em Down Jax, the anti-monument group, but organizers said the public should understand the threats against demonstrators.
Emails had said “20 or so people would show up this morning with Confederate flags and march in our picket line, which is our First Amendment right,” said Wells Todd of Take ‘Em Down Jax. “I was concerned, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
About 15 people participated in Friday’s demonstration outside Jacksonville City Hall, waving signs demanding officials “Remove Symbols of Hate” and “Take Them All Down.” There was no obvious police presence near the picketers or park during the sign waving.
Members of Take ‘Em Down and others speak against the confederate monuments at every City Council meeting, often going head to head with those who want the monuments to stay put. Those who want them to stay, some wearing Confederate flags on their clothing, speak in favor of leaving their heritage alone.
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In June 2020, Mayor Lenny Curry did remove a Confederate soldier statue from a pedestal in the middle of what was then called Hemming Park, later renamed James Weldon Johnson Park. But while Curry has tweeted support for removal of a large Confederate statue in Springfield Park, the City Council has not acted.
The lawmakers voted down a $1.3 million removal plan from Curry and did the same with a bill that would have put the issue to voters. City Council also shot down a $500,000 removal effort, failed to follow its own strategic plan to address Confederate monuments by July and idled an offer from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to hire outside facilitators to help the city determine the future of the Confederate monuments on public lands.
Todd said the lack of action by City Council “emboldens” supporters of the view that Confederate figures are heroes, while the statues erected long after the end of the Civil War celebrate the return of white supremacy. The protest Friday came only days after a University of North Florida poll found a division of opinion over monuments.
UNF polled 531 registered, likely voters in Duval County by phone Feb. 20 to 24. Forty-five percent strongly or somewhat supported the idea of removing Confederate monuments from public property. Fifth-one percent oppose the action either strongly or somewhat.
Todd said people who continuously support keeping the statues up have “not been exposed to the truth” in schools or anywhere else. Now may be the time to hold some live discussions on local TV about the truth behind these monuments and Black history, he said.
“We have kind of framed this as an attack of African American history,” Todd said. “It is really an attempt to keep African American history from being taught to white children. Because once white kids really understand the institutionalization of racism and all that has happened, they will definitely support the struggle of Black people in this country.”