Though the reasoning varied from person to person, a few hundred people gathered at the corner of Frederica and 3rd streets Saturday morning for a rally to oppose the potential movement of the Confederate monument on the Daviess County Courthouse lawn.
County Commissioners are scheduled to vote on whether or not to remove the statue Thursday during the Fiscal Court meeting.
Saturday’s “Save the Confederate Monument Rally” was organized by Dale Roberts, and it also featured guest speakers from the Sons of Confederate Veterans and The United Daughters of the Confederacy. H.K. Edgerton — previously president of the Asheville, N.C. branch of the NAACP — also made the trek to Owensboro to show his support, donned in full Civil War reenactment regalia.
“We believe that it’s a part of history and it’s a memorial to our dead ancestors, and a lot of them didn’t have graves,” Roberts said of the monument. “They were buried in mass graves and their family members needed something to remember them by, and this was one of many that was erected for that sole purpose.
“Now people want to remove it. It’s no different than going to a cemetery and tearing down a gravestone. This memorial is for the relatives and the others that wanted to remember their kinfolk. We believe it should be left in place and not just taken away because it’s what the nutcase left-wing media is pushing right now.”
Though it’s not the first time there has been a call to move the statue, momentum has been greater than ever in light of a national push to do the same for Confederate monuments across the country.
The prevailing concern among those asking for the statue to be removed cite its ties to racism and salvery, though Roberts said that’s not what it stands for.
“It has nothing to do with slavery. It has to do with confederate soldiers who were killed in battle — for soldiers who never got to come home,” he said. “Their families didn’t know where they were buried and they didn’t have anything else. It was only erected about 35 years after the Civil War so there were plenty alive that remember Confederate soldiers who died on the battlefield who didn’t have any kind of memorial to their loved ones.”
Edgerton, a Black activist for Southern heritage and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, drove all the way from his hometown of Asheville to echo those sentiments.
“I come in hopes that some of the politicians that you have here in the city, county and state will show the same kind of courage that the men of the South — and arguably the women — showed when our homeland was invaded,” he said. “I came because these folks continue to try to erase the place of honor that folks who look like me earned beside a man he not only called Master, but family and friend — a man who he went off to war to fight for, a man who stayed at home and tried to protect the plantations while the men were away, a man now who has basically been erased. They don’t tell my babies around here in Kentucky doing so-called Black History Month about all the Black Confederate soldiers who fought with General (Robert E.) Lee and his men.”
Some people were there to say the monument should stay where it is, regardless of why it was erected.
“History is not very pretty, it never has been,” said Hunter, who declined to provide his last name. “But in order to ensure a beautiful future we have to learn from those ugly things. Remembering our ugly history will help ensure a beautiful future. While I don’t agree with some of the things it might stand for, I agree history needs to be learned.”
Leslie Redd said she attended because moving a statue is only a small part of what could become a larger issue.
“Even in small steps, big things can happen,” she said. “If we allow our county officials to go and take away a statue, what power trip are they going to be on next where they think they can take other things away from us? What people need to realize is they are Americans. America has been asleep for way too long. It’s time we wake up, stand our ground and take our country back.”
Roberts considered the event a success, saying he was happy to help provide a platform for the community to let county commissioners know how they feel.
“I was really happy with the turnout we had,” Roberts said. “I think people have just grown frustrated and tired of having a one-sided narrative presented to our commissioners, and they wanted to come to our commissioners today and present their side.”
It was also a largely peaceful event, as Roberts said organizers were clear they didn’t want to cause a scene.
“We definitely told all of our members and everyone on our page we did not want any kind of display or show of open carry firearms or rifles,” he said. “That’s not the image we want to portray. We want peace between both sides, not animosity. We don’t want any kind of a standoff for sure.”
Daviess County Sheriff’s Officers were on scene. Major Barry Smith said there were a couple minor incidents with rally opposers, but nothing escalated.
Commissioners will vote Thursday on whether or not to remove the monument from the Courthouse lawn — though it’s unlikely they would decide at that time where it would go if they vote to relocate it.
Roberts is hopeful the statue stays where it is, or else it could set a precedent for others to get taken down:
“If you take down this monument, where does it end?”