Almost a dozen residents are on tap to speak before the Harrison County Commissioners Court, today, regarding their stance on a petition to remove the Confederate statue that’s currently located on the grounds of the 1901 historic county courthouse.
Among the eight people slated to speak is Wiley College president, Dr. Herman J. Felton. Others speaking include Leigh Ann Buchanan, Tasha Williams, Raymond K. Fogg, January Simpson, Melody Spray, Sherri Campbell and Jonathan McCarty.
Presenters represent both sides of the argument. Buchanan, for instance, began a counterpetition against the statue’s removal, and also created a Facebook group called “Save our Soldier,” because she believes removing the statue would be erasing a piece of history, she said previously.
Williams, McCarty, and Fogg, are on the executive committee of Educators for Public Service, which is a diverse group of local educators that have banned together to work towards a compromise on the current issues surrounding the statue.
The group of educators was formed after Marshall Against Violence president Demetria McFarland began a petition to have the statue removed from the public’s eye because it’s a painful reminder of America’s dark history of racism and slavery and ties to white supremacy.
The group is working on a plan for the statue that focuses on three areas: preserve, relocate and replace.
The group noted previously that its main goal is to ensure a peaceful conversation and resolution to the issues, and to avoid conflict over the statue.
Today’s presentations will be given during the commissioners court’s regularly scheduled meeting, beginning at 9 a.m., on the second floor of the 1901 historic county courthouse.
Because the presentations will be given during the public comment portion of the meeting, no one will be able to respond to the address.
In her past presentation, McFarland noted that her petition for removal and relocation was prompted by the fatal officer-involved death of George Floyd.
“This nation is experiencing a movement after the senseless murder of George Floyd due to systemic racism,” McFarland said during the June 24 commissioners court meeting.
Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man died May 25 when a white Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer pressed his knee to his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, despite Floyd’s outcry for relief.
The death, caught on video, prompted outrage across the country regarding the alarming number of deaths of unarmed black citizens killed at the hands of police.
Communities across the nation are now starting to call for the removal of Confederacy symbols, in the wake of protests over the May 25 officer-involved killing.
In a July 11 virtual panel event, hosted on the Educators for Public Service Facebook page, McFarland expounded on the importance of signing the petitions that are circulating in favor of removing the statue.
“We want to make this truly one nation under God and that all people are created equal,” said McFarland. “If we’re truly created equal then we need to be shown that we’re created equal, where we’re not looking at symbols of hate, racism, division and something that shows white Supremacy. So my thing is let’s join together, let’s collaborate, let’s do what we gotta do to show there’s racial equality starting here in Marshall and then we can literally change the world as we do what we need to do here in Marshall.
“The word of God tells us that love starts at home and it spreads abroad,” she added. “There’s so much work to be done, but let’s start with the removal of the statue.”
Marshall’s controversial statue has now drawn national attention as NPR (National Public Radio) is in town this week, covering the issue.
John Burnett, national correspondent for National Public Radio in Austin, who is covering the story, noted that the statue first piqued his interest as he and his girlfriend visited Marshall while on a kayaking trip in Harrison County.
“This was back in April, and we were walking around the courthouse square and we saw this great big Confederate statue and I started asking around about it, and everybody started shrugging their shoulders (saying) no one’s complaining about it.”
Following the brutal death of George Floyd and the demands for the removal of Confederate monuments that ensued after, Barnett decided to follow up with the status of the one in Harrison County.
“I started calling around again and I called Demetria, and she said: ‘Oh, yea, believe me, we’re talking about it,” he said.
The NPR correspondent said he feels it is a pertinent, yet unique aspect to shed light on.
“I just think it’s important because a lot of reports we’ve been having on NPR have been after the monuments were taken down but we haven’t heard any in the middle of the process, where there’s pushback, where they’re right in the (emotions) of a debate.
“That’s what’s interesting about the Marshall story,” he said. “We’re right in the middle of it.”