Confederate statue controversy continues in Lexington

Lexington city council, residents debate Confederate statues

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WHAS11) – A packed house in Lexington spent the afternoon debating the future of two Confederate statues in front of what will become the city's new visitors center.

Lexington has vaulted into the national debate after Mayor Jim Gray tweeted moments after the Charlottesville tragedy that he was fast tracking the move of two Confederate statues from the historic courthouse.

Tuesday afternoon, the council chambers were full, with people also crowding on the first and second floor overflow space, to share their opinions on the record, about whether or not to move those statues.

"I don’t believe removing those statues is not going to make us evolve into lovely people,” one Lexington woman said.

"There's a place for monuments, there is a place to see history, and it is certainly not at the county courthouse”, another Lexington woman argued.

The two monuments honoring Confederate leaders John C. Breckinridge and John H. Morgan sit in front of the former Fayette County Courthouse. The courthouse is the future Lexington Visitor's Center. That multi-million dollar restoration project will open in the spring of 2018.

"We're reinventing that space, we want that space to be inviting, we want everyone to feel welcome. Just for that reason alone, they don't belong,” Councilman Kevin O. Stinnett said.

The Lexington Councilmembers said the proposal was on the agenda to be discussed at Tuesday's meeting long before the violence broke out in Charlottesville. But it was those protests that fast tracked Gray's announcement. That’s something some council members aren't happy about.

"I learned about it ten minutes prior to the announcement, I think the council was disrespected in that aspect Mayor, I think we should have had the discussion before we went public with what our true plan was”, Stinnett said.

The majority of those who spoke out at the meeting want the statues moved... the question is to where?

The mayor proposed Veteran's Park, but the people who live there say no.

"A monument of this nature does not belong in that area. We don't want the increased traffic, we don't want the increased people in that area and we don't want the statues there,” a Veteran’s Park resident explained.

Others proposed the statues move to a museum or cemetery. The council said they will continue to take feedback and suggestions from the public when considering where to move the statues if they do.

But nothing is set in stone until the move is approved by the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission. The commission’s next meeting is not scheduled until November.

For now, the proposal is just an idea, one that's following along with a national call to action.

The council will be discussing the proposal on Thursday at their regularly scheduled city council meeting.

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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