As the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council prepares for a possible final vote Thursday on asking permission to move two Confederate statues from the old courthouse lawn, President Donald Trump posted on Twitter that it is “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”
The president’s tweets didn’t mention Lexington or any city. But the tweets came just hours before the Urban County Council is set for a possible final vote on a proposal to move a pair of statues on the lawn of the former county courthouse on East Main Street. The statues depict Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge and Confederate general John Hunt Morgan.
“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump tweeted. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
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If the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council passes the resolution Thursday, additional steps must be taken before the statues can be moved. Unlike Baltimore, which has recently taken swift action to move Confederate statues, Lexington would needapproval from a separate body, the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission.
The action in Lexington began Saturday, when Mayor Jim Gray said he would push to move the statues after violence broke out at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that centered around the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Since then, debate has reignited in many cities throughout the South about the fate of Confederate statues in prominent public spaces.
“It’s just not right for us to continue to honor these Confederate men who fought to preserve slavery on the same ground that men, women and even children were once sold into a life of slavery,” Gray has said of his push to remove the statues from the old courthouse lawn, which once was one of the largest slave markets in the South. The issue has been under review for two years.
On Tuesday, the Urban County Council cast an initial unanimous vote to move forward with the proposal to move the two statues. The city administration would return to the council in 30 days with a proposed new site for the statues. Thursday’s council meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Government Center downtown.
In addition to the discussion in Lexington, on Wednesday, a group of prominent Kentucky Republicans renewed calls for the removal of a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort during a rally to reject hatred and racism.
The debate in Lexington prompted the leader of a white nationalist group to say Tuesday that he plans a protest in Lexington.