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Will Jacksonville remove its Confederate monuments? Voters may decide

 Protesters demonstrate outside City Hall on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.
Raymon Troncoso
Protesters demonstrate outside City Hall on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.

Dueling legislation being considered by the Jacksonville City Council may determine the future of Confederate symbols on public lands.

Dueling legislation from the Jacksonville City Council provides two possible paths for settling the issue of Confederate monuments on public land, and one of them would leave it up to the public.

At-Large Councilman Matt Carlucci has introduced a resolution that would set aside $500,000 for the purpose of removing all monuments and markers honoring the Confederacy from public property.

The bill is a revival of the failed bid to take down a statue honoring the women of the Confederacy in Springfield Park, formerly Confederate Park. That measure would have allocated nearly $1.3 million to remove the Springfield monument alone.

Carlucci's resolution, which is unlikely to even appropriate enough funds for the single Springfield project, requires Mayor Lenny Curry's administration to make up the shortfall through private investment or other means.

Carlucci's bill, similar to previous efforts from the mayor's office to take down Confederate monuments, is being met with opposition from some residents.

Seber Newsome III, a familiar presence to council members during public comment, has been opposing the removal of monuments for six years.

"Carlucci's resolution? That's garbage. ... I've been coming down here saying let's put up more statues of famous Black men and women," he said.

Newsome, and a handful like-minded demonstrators outside City Hall on Tuesday, say they want to use the statue as a wedge issue while also pressuring Republicans on the council.

"These elections in Jacksonville are very close, every vote counts," Newsome said, "We have a sizable portion of the voters in Jacksonville."

As an alternative to Carlucci's resolution, conservative District 2 Councilman Al Ferraro has proposed a second option: Let the people vote — with one big caveat.

Ferraro's ordinance, introduced Tuesday, would create a referendum on November's General Election ballot that asks voters if they want to remove all historic monuments on city-owned property, not just those praising the Confederacy.

Public hearings for the bill will be held in committee April 26, with a vote from the full City Council expected next month.

Ben Frazier, founder of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, has been working to remove Confederate markers from public property for years.

He opposes the referendum on principle.

"It's cowardly, and it is in fact dangerous. For the past two years, we have watched this local government kick this political football around," Frazier said. "They haven't had the courage, the passion, the gumption, the wherewithal, the guts to simply vote to remove them."

Frazier and the Northside Coalition were part of a larger cohort that protested a bronze Confederate statue in James Weldon Johnson Park, formerly Hemming Park.

After Jacksonville Jaguar players joined the growing movement against the statue, Mayor Curry had it taken down while pledging to remove similar symbols. Two years later, the promise remains unfulfilled.

"It's not about metal bonds or stone. It's about what these Confederate monuments represent," Frazier said.

"More than 4,000 lynchings that occurred here in the United States, they're about man's inhumanity to man. These monuments have no business, no place being glorified, being honored, being celebrated on public land. They are, in effect, monuments to racism."

Copyright 2022 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Raymon Troncoso
Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity.
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