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The story behind the statue drawing controversy in Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Dozens gathered in the heart of the Highlands Monday night to rally for the removal of a statue linked to the Confederacy.

The statue is located inside a round-about on Cherokee Parkway. It is honoring John B. Castleman.

"Mayor Fischer, take it down. Mayor Fischer, take it down,” members with Louisville Standing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ, chanted.

It was a strong showing of disapproval for one of Louisville's historical landmarks.

"The fact that is still here, unbothered, and even protected by the Cherokee triangle association is horrendous and it needs to be taken down,” one community member said.

The group is calling for Mayor Greg Fischer to remove the statue and all others linked to the confederacy in Louisville.

“If these symbols are hurtful to anyone, they don't need to stand, it’s a damn statue,” one leader with SURJ said.

SURJ leaders said the statue represents racism, bigotry and marks a dark part of history.

There were many signs that encouraged the statue to go down, reading, "We can do better. Take it down.”

But also some that read, "Stop destroying American Historical Monuments."

"It’s a landmark,” Chad, a Highlands resident said.

Chad has lived in the Highlands, across from the statue for more than 20 years. He said the statute represents his home, and a man who's made it the place it is today.

"It’s the Castleman statue, it’s a gorgeous statue, and sorry the man has done more good than harm,” Chad explained.

He said Castleman's work to create the Louisville Parks system is commendable and he deserves to be recognized.

"Maybe people should read up on the history of the man, and not the history that surrounds the man is all I'm saying,” Chad said.

But according to local historian Eric Burnette, there’s a different story to Castleman.

"Basically his entire involvement with the park commission, which he was president of for a long time, was trying to figure out a way to make money off of his land,” Burnette said.

Burnette spent the last five years researching and writing the book 'Parks for the People!’, detailing how the Louisville Parks system came to be, and the role Castleman actually didn't play.

"He didn't want Olmsted to be the park designer, he voted against him. He didn't want Cherokee Park to be here, he wanted it to be where Tyler Park is because that was his land, so if it was up to Castleman we wouldn't have Cherokee Park and we wouldn't have a park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted,” Castleman said.

He said this monument deserves a conversation, but it’s important all sides know the truth of his involvement and impact in Louisville.

SURJ said the group will continuing meeting and rallying against the statues in Louisville until they are removed.

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