ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Leaders of the country’s oldest city moved Monday night to relocate a Confederate memorial that has been a fixture in its historic central plaza for 140 years, taking action after weeks of demonstrations in the Florida city to protest racism and police brutality against Black people.
The St. Augustine City Commission voted 3-2 to relocate a towering obelisk that bears the names of dozens of Confederate soldiers who perished during the Civil War.
The commission made its decision after nine hours of testimony, including the reading out loud of more than 300 emails that illustrated the clear division among many of the city’s residents.
In the weeks after George Floyd’s death, protesters by the hundreds have swarmed the historic city. The memorial has been a key focus of the outrage, with supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement arguing that the memorial is a symbol of slavery and the oppression of African Americans.
Meanwhile, those who want to keep the memorial in its place in the Plaza de la Constitucion assert that it is a remembrance of the men who died in the war. The obelisk was placed in the plaza in 1879 and is one of the region’s oldest Confederate monuments.
The city had taken up the issue of moving the memorial two years ago, but instead decided to install plaques to provide historical context. But protests spawned by Floyd’s death in Minneapolis renewed calls for the monument to be moved.
St. Augustine was founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1565 and touts itself as the oldest continuously functioning community in the United States.
With its decision, the memorial will be moved, perhaps brick by brick. But exactly where won’t be formally discussed until a decision’s been made on how to remove it from its highly-visible perch.