Some prominent Kentucky Republicans called for the removal of a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the Capitol Rotunda during a rally Wednesday to reject hatred and racism.
State Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, said it is “truly unexplainable” why the statue of the president of 11 slave-holding states that seceded from the United States during the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 is in Kentucky’s seat of government.
He said it belongs in a museum. “The Rotunda is reserved for those who built our commonwealth up and made it stronger, not for those who tried to tear it apart,” Schroder said.
“Why would Kentucky want to showcase what has become a symbol of hate in one of our most sacred places?” he asked.
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Gov. Matt Bevin said as the Republican nominee for governor in 2015 that the statue should be moved, but this week he has repeatedly refused to take a stance on the issue and criticized efforts to remove Confederate symbols from government property as the “sanitization of history.”
“Hate and bigotry has no place whatsoever in Kentucky. Period,” he said Tuesday when asked if the statue should stay or go.
Bevin was invited to speak at the rally but his communications director, Amanda Stamper, said he was on a tour of Marathon in Catlettsburg.
Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican, also said the Davis statue should not be in the Capitol and voiced appreciation for the “leadership” of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.
Hours after a deadly clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., Gray announced that he will push to remove two controversial Confederate statues from the lawn of the former Fayette County courthouse. The Lexington council Tuesday unanimously voted to move forward with his proposal.
State Treasurer Allison Ball, a Republican, encouraged unity in her rally speech but did not mention the Davis statue.
Asked about the statue later, she said, “I agree with Sen. Schroder and what he’s saying.”
Former State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, a Democrat who has previously called for removing the Davis state from the Capitol, called Schroder’s comments “morally courageous.” He also praised U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, for saying the statue should be moved from the Kentucky Capitol.
State Republican Party Chairman Mac Brown attended the rally but did not speak. Asked later if Bevin should clarify his position on the Davis statue, Brown said there is a process in place to deal with the statue.
He was referring to the Historic Properties Advisory Commission, which considered the fate of the statue in 2015 at the request of then-Gov. Steve Beshear following the slaying of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church by a gunman who had an affinity for Confederate symbols.
The panel voted 7-2 to keep the statue of Jefferson and decided to produce educational materials about it and the four other statues in the Rotunda. It didn’t begin work on the education materials until last month.
The organizer of the “One Voice, One Commonwealth” rally, Jordan Harris, who is executive director of a bipartisan think tank in Louisville called the Pegasus Institute, said Wednesday that the state panel should re-evaluate its 2015 decision. The Kentucky NAACP made a similar request on Monday.
A spokeswoman for Bevin did not immediately respond when asked if the governor will instruct the commission to re-consider its decision.
Steve Collins, chairman of the historic properties panel, said the commission did “a very extensive period of fact finding about the statue” two years ago “and has no plans to revisit the issue unless directed to do so by the governor.”
A plaque on Davis’ statue identifies him as a “patriot — hero — statesman.” The Tennessee marble likeness, unveiled in 1936, was erected by the state with the help of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Davis was born in Kentucky, but spent most of his adult life elsewhere.
Before the noon rally in the Capitol, about 100 people met in a room in the Capitol Annex to voice support for peacekeepers in Charlottesville.
Frankfort Mayor Bill May said the citizens of Frankfort “will stand strongly against any type of violence here.” He noted that the city has an ordinance that prohibits anyone from wearing a mask in public.
The speakers at the gathering, which was sponsored by “Together Frankfort,” did not mention the Davis statue. Most of their remarks were directed at President Trump and their belief that he has not shown moral leadership on the Charlottesville tragedy.