Updated May 31 with information on aldermanic hearing — St. Louis’ parks committee weighed in Wednesday on the controversy surrounding the memorial to Confederate soldiers in Forest Park.
The first in a series of hearings on a bill sponsored by Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, came the day after those for and against keeping the monument in its current location held simultaneous protests.
Tyus’ bill requires the city to remove any Confederate monuments or flags from city parks, and prohibits new ones from being put up in the future. It also calls for the city to rename Confederate Drive for Scott Joplin.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy paid for the Forest Park statue and put it up with the city’s permission in 1914. Tyus called it an attempt by private citizens to rewrite history.
“The states wanted the right to keep slavery, and they were willing to destroy the United States,” she said. “And in my reading of history, I don’t know of a place where they put up monuments to losers.”
Her bill still has a long way to go to become law. The parks committee plans to hold a second public hearing, and the bill requires approval from the committee, the full Board of Aldermen and Mayor Lyda Krewson.
Original story from May 30:
Bill Hannegan’s grandfather was part of the committee that 103 years ago allowed the United Daughters of the Confederacy to put up the Confederate monument in St. Louis’ Forest Park.
What Hannegan calls a “real piece of art” was the target of another debate Tuesday between supporters like Hannegan and opponents calling for the monument to be taken down.
The gathering came the same day that St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones’ campaign to raise private funds to remove the monument passed $14,000 in donations (of a $25,000 goal). It was also ahead of a city parks department meeting to discuss a measure meant to take down all Confederate-related things in St. Louis.
“It’s just history. We have a racist history, and if you took down everything in St. Louis that had something to do with slavery or racism the city would be flat,” Hannegan said while standing near a homemade sign that read, “ISIS destroys statues too, Mayor Krewson.” “The one good thing that has come out of this whole controversy is people are actually talking about the Civil War again and trying to understand the crimes that happened in those days.”
On the other side of the monument stood Wanda Brandon, also a lifelong St. Louis resident.
“Well it may be an art piece, but it shouldn’t be here in the park, put it in a museum,” she said. “It promotes racism, it’s attached to the negativity of slavery, I think it’s distasteful. Even though it’s a part of history doesn’t make it right.”
People united through the hashtags #TakeItDownSTL and #MonumentalMisrepresentation stood at the statue, passing out pamphlets that argued the monument is a piece of racist, revisionist history. About a dozen people tried to pass out pamphlets at the Twilight Tuesdays concert held outside of the Missouri History Museum but were stopped by security and St. Louis police.
“The idea that the history museum would ban them from coming in is ridiculous to me,” concertgoer Anna Baltzer said, pointing to the sign above the museum advertising a civil rights exhibit. “If you step into that museum, you’ll see a whole lot of signs just like that.”
The St. Louis parks committee is holding a meeting Wednesday to discuss a Board of Alderman bill that aims to make a comprehensive list of Confederate memorials around the city for removal. Mayor Lyda Krewson, who in 2015, as an alderman, made an unsuccessful bid to rename Confederate Drive in Forest Park, has announced she is making plans to remove the monument, but has yet to release details.
Kimberly Moon was one of the people with #TakeItDownSTL handing out pamphlets.
“This is my city, and I don’t want to be represented by that, I share my city with a whole lot of people of color, for whom that is a slap in the face, and so today I’m here to try to show support and combat a lie,” she said.
Rachel Lippmann contributed reporting.
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