The Week in Confederate Heritage

We begin this week’s installment of our look at the nationwide retreat of confederate heritage with this article from Alabama. “A set of bills pre-filed for the Alabama Legislature’s upcoming session would end two holidays honoring Confederate leaders and add holidays for Juneteenth and Election Day. The four bills were all pre-filed by Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), a former chair of the Alabama Democratic Party. f approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey, here’s what would happen:

• “The state holiday commemorating Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s birthday would be removed and replaced with a ‘State Employee Appreciation Day.’

• “The state holiday recognizing Confederate leader Robert E. Lee’s birthday would be removed.

• “Add Juneteenth, which was recognized federally last year, as a state holiday on June 19.

• “Add Election Day as a state holiday in place of Confederate Memorial Day.

“Alabama is one of the few states to still recognize holidays related to the Confederacy. The Yellowhammer State currently recognizes Robert E. Lee Day on the third Monday of January at the same time as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Confederate Memorial Day in April, and Jefferson Davis’s Birthday in May.”

We stay in Alabama for this article. “An Alabama judge has paved the way for officials to remove a Confederate monument placed a century ago at the center of a historic, majority-Black city as part of a ‘park for white people.’ Since 1909, the Confederate monument has stood in the center of Tuskegee, a city famous for Tuskegee University and known as the training ground for Black pilots in World War II. The city’s population is now more than 93% Black. The monument has been a target of recent protests and vandalism attempts. The Macon County Commission filed a lawsuit to regain control of the land, which is the first step toward removing the statue. The monument was erected at a time when white supremacy reigned and pro-Confederate groups across the South erected Civil War memorials to honor rebel troops and portray the cause of the slave-holding South as noble. Hundreds of rebel monuments were taken down in recent years as they came to be seen as symbols of racial oppression against Black people. Circuit Judge Steven Perryman on Thursday ruled that the site should revert to the Macon County Commission under the terms of a 1906 deed that gave the space to the Tuskegee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy for the purpose of ‘maintaining a park for white people and maintaining a monument to the memory of the Confederate soldiers.’ Perryman said there was no evidence the space had been maintained as a segregated park so the land should revert to the county under deed terms that said the county would get the land back if it wasn’t used for those purposes. The judge gave the Tuskegee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy 60 days to retrieve and remove the monument. The group could appeal the ruling. A 2017 Alabama law meant to protect Confederate monuments imposes a $25,000 penalty for removing or altering any monument that’s been in place for 40 or more years. However, a number of local governments have opted to take down Confederate structures and pay the law’s fine.”

The article concludes, “Macon County Commission Chairman Louis Maxwell praised the decision. He said they needed to answer the question of who owns the property before taking any action about the monument. Maxwell said he hopes the statue will be gone by the spring festival that celebrates George Washington Carver, the famed 19th century scientist and Tuskegee professor. ‘We will celebrate the removal of this statue. We will celebrate this decision,’ Maxwell said in a press conference. He asked county residents to be patient over the next 60 days. ‘Don’t tear it down,’ Maxwell said. ‘Don’t deface it. Give them a chance to move it.’ “

We next look at this article from Santa Fe, Texas. “Tensions bubbled Friday at a news conference hosted by a Santa Fe woman accusing police there of arresting her on trumped up charges after she removed a Confederate flag that allegedly extended onto her parents’ property, when her supporters briefly got into a shouting match with the neighbors. What once, years ago, might have been a small dispute between neighbors, has now morphed into a public scuffle involving attorneys, who had previously sent out news releases about the drama. Family members of those hosting the flag asserted the dispute goes back years, and wasn’t just about the flag, said Ronny Turrentine, whose brother owns the property next to Rosie Yanas’ parents. ‘If she just leaves us alone, this problem will go away,’ he said. But attorneys and community representatives accused Turrentine’s family of intimidating Yanas’ 90- and 80-year-old parents by flying the Confederate flag partially over their property. And for too many years, Santa Fe authorities have turned a blind eye toward racist behavior, said Mike Matranga, a former Texas City Independent School District trustee and security expert, who befriended Yanas after the Santa Fe High School shooting. Yanas, 45, is the mother of Christopher Stone, one of the 10 people killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Santa Fe High School. Attorneys for Yanas are accusing police of arresting her on trumped up charges after she removed a Confederate flag that allegedly extended onto her parents’ property during a months-long dispute with neighbors. ‘I’ve tried to avoid this,’ Yanas said through tears Friday. ‘I do everything I can to keep the peace.’ Officers around 10:30 a.m. Jan. 28 responded to a report of criminal trespass in the 5500 block of East Bellaire Street in Santa Fe, according to Lt. Greg Boody, spokesperson for the Santa Fe Police Department.”

The article tells us, “Police have been frequent visitors to the location in recent years because of an ongoing dispute over a Confederate flag that her parents’ neighbors keep putting up, Houston attorney Randall Kallinen said. The flag extends from their property over onto either public property or her parents’ property, Kallinen asserts, and says Yanas removed it without stepping on her neighbor’s property. He compared it to having a neighbor with a tree whose branches come onto your property, and argued she didn’t do anything illegal by removing it. ‘Before this, not a single officer had told her this was a crime,’ he said. Police officials, however, asserted that Yanas had been issued a criminal trespass warning in the past. She is accused of violating that warning by removing the flag and tossing it in the yard, Boody said. Yanas was arrested and placed in jail on resisting arrest and trespassing charges, Boody said. Representatives for the city did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Yanas’ accusations, or requests made at Friday’s news conference. Kallinen and community leaders, such as Matranga, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the police department over the arrest, and asked for the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office not to pursue charges against Yanas. As of Friday afternoon, the charges did not appear in online court records. In Galveston County, law enforcement officers can make arrests on misdemeanor charges that are later reviewed by prosecutors, said Kevin Petroff, first assistant district attorney with the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors were still reviewing the facts of the case and had not yet made a decision on whether to bring charges against Yanas, Petroff said.”

Finally, we have this opinion piece from Manatee County, Florida. “Too often – in fact, far too often – you get the feeling that the Manatee County commissioners devote as much energy to obnoxious trolling as they do to actual governing. Sometimes that trolling borders on silliness, such as when the commissioners approved naming a new park after Gov. Ron DeSantis, who: a) is still an active, elected official; b) wasn’t born in Manatee County and didn’t grow up there, and c) threatened to withhold doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Manatee after people complained that he’d allowed residents in the affluent Lakewood Ranch community to get early access to the still-scarce shots. Sometimes the trolling borders on duplicity, such as when the commissioners passed a law in August 2021 banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in Manatee County – only to blatantly defy the will of citizens and repeal the ban last month. But there’s one current example where the trolling by the Manatee County commissioners hasn’t been merely foolish or underhanded – it’s been utterly and truly offensive. And, yes, that is the only fitting way to describe the commissioners’ ongoing interest in reviving a Confederate monument that was removed in 2017 – and finding a prominent spot to re-erect it in the county. The commissioners know it is needlessly provocative to breathe poisonous life back into the monument, which was originally erected in 1924 by a chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and honors Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis – all of whom championed slavery and committed treason with equally horrific zeal. The commissioners know it is totally divisive. The commissioners know it is deeply insensitive. And yet we all know that while the commissioners know all of the above, they still don’t care – regardless of their recent token move to delay a decision on relocating an artifact that is both old and odious. On the issue of the Confederate monument, the Manatee County commissioners have shown a greater resemblance to toxic trolls than thoughtful leaders. And if there is a bright side to that, it is this: We’ve already been spared any future debates on where to erect the monuments honoring their courage as public servants.”

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