Updated on Monday, 08/14 at 5 p.m. to include comments from local activists, council members.
Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez-Brosche is calling for the city’s Confederate statues, memorials and monuments to be moved off of public property and into museums or other educational facilities.
On Monday, she said she’s directing the Parks and Recreation Department to inventory all of the monuments before she introduces formal legislation.
The newly elected leader of the Jacksonville City Council told WJCT Monday she understands both sides of the removal debate, but “there’s still an opportunity to make sure that on public property that we are not honoring memorials that do cause as much pain as they do.”
She also told WJCT she’s been in contact with local law enforcement in anticipation of conflict between Confederate supporters and opponents. She made her announcement within two days of a deadly clash between the two sides in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue there.
“It has been divisive, and we’ve seen that in our council meetings so far. I know that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is taking note, and they will be prepared as we move forward,” she said. “At the end of the day, I do want the markers, memorials and monuments to be respectfully preserved and placed where we can understand what they mean to our community.”
Map of Jacksonville's Confederate memorials and markers:
Meanwhile, a group calling itself #TakeEmDownJax has just begun a petition drive calling for council members and Mayor Lenny Curry to support a plan to remove the markers from public spaces.
At an event Monday, Curry uniformly condemned Nazism and white supremacy but stopped short of saying whether he would support the monuments’ removal.
“Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II.One of my grandfathers told me stories of, literally, the face-to-face combat he had with Nazis, specifically. I heard those stories as a child,” he said. “So, I condemn and reject the KKK, white supremacy — all of these groups — Nazis, neo-Nazis. It’s not what America is about.”
When pressed on whether he’d support legislation, Curry said he deferred to City Council as the “legislative body.”
Other council members weren't as reluctant to issue some response. Councilman Garrett Dennis told WJCT Brosche's recommendation represents "bold leadership" and he's fully supportive.
Councilman Aaron Bowman was more measured, saying "I support having the discussion," but that he also believes in "balancing with respect for our history."
Calls to other council members were not returned in time for this story.
Meanwhile, community activists affiliated with the #TakeEmDownJax movement, like the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition's Wells Todd, applauded Brosche's leadership.
He thanked Brosche for "having the moral fortitude to move Jacksonville forward."
Likewise, Northside Coalition of Jacksonville spokesman Ben Frazier wrote "We commend President Brosche for her insight, wisdom and her political courage."