Sen. Gerald Neal says time to remove Jefferson Davis statue from Capitol rotunda is now

09/01/2017 09:00 AM

FRANKFORT — With renewed calls for the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue in the Capitol rotunda, Sen. Gerald Neal believes that the time has come for removal of all Confederate monuments displayed in prominent places in Kentucky because they glorify a time when African Americans were oppressed and treated as second-class citizens.

During a rally to remove the statue on Wednesday, Neal noted that there are still a good number of Kentuckians who want the statue to remain.

“There are a lot of people who are living in the past and haven’t let go of the Civil War, and they’re still fighting that battle,” said Neal, D-Louisville. “There are a number of people who are attached to it because they have relatives and other types on sentiments that were involved in that process, and they want to do honor to them.”

Just about every poll conducted about whether the statue should stay or go has resulted in 75 to 80 percent of those polled saying the statue should stay where it is.

Neal believes that the result has come about because of how the question is worded and interpreted.

But, regardless of what the polls say, Neal believes that removing the statue is all about doing what’s right.

“Underneath all of that, what is articulated is that well, we don’t want to do away with our history. Well that’s the confusion there. It doesn’t do away with history. That’s what we have museums for,” Neal said. “It’s not a question of how many people want it to stay — it’s a question of doing what’s right.”

Neal also has concerns about monuments like the Jefferson Davis Historic Site in Fairview, which features a 351-foot obelisk constructed on a foundation of solid Kentucky limestone as a memorial to Davis and his birthplace.

“What they were doing is reestablishing or holding on that which they thought was being obliterated, and now it’s evolved into folklore and everything else, where they could put a guy like that, Jefferson Davis in front, because they were not adversely affected in their sensibilities,” Neal said.

The Kentucky Historic Properties Advisory Commission has said that the statue will stay, but Neal is hopeful that rallies, like the one in Frankfort on Wednesday, will convince Gov. Matt Bevin to ask the commission to reconsider its decision.

“We appeal to his good heart, we believe that he is a person that strives like most people to do the right thing, so we’re going to appeal to that and see if he is going to reconsider his position,” Neal said.

Neal has said that if the statue stays in the Capitol rotunda, he’ll consider crafting legislation to do that when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2018.


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