At this week’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Mayor Robyn Tannehill said that there are no plans to move the Confederate monument from the center of the Square unless the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors reconsiders and offers to discuss the issue of whether or not the monument sits on city property.
Oxford City Attorney Pope Mallette presented months of research regarding the ownership of the land on which the Confederate monument sits, but he said the city’s findings yielded no definitive answer.
The board voted 4-3 against opening a lawsuit against the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors to declare the area as the city’s property. Tannehill said a lawsuit would have caused irreversible damage between the two boards and the entire community would suffer from the rift.
“The intention of the Board of Aldermen at this time is to move forward and address other important issues in our community, but will remain committed to discussing this issue with the Board of Supervisors in the event they reconsider,” Tannehill said. “Further discussion of this issue without the involvement of the Board of Supervisors would be unproductive and not entertained by the Board of Aldermen.”
On July 29, the city sent a letter to the county requesting a meeting to discuss the property issue, either an informal meeting between a few representatives from each board or a formal meeting with all members of each board in attendance, according to Tannehill’s statement. She said the letter went unanswered.
After the city sent a second letter on August 18, detailing some of the city’s research and again requesting to meet, the Board of Supervisors informed the Board of Aldermen that they did not wish to discuss the property issue.
Tannehill said this process left the Board of Aldermen with no option but to conclude that there is no definitive answer and to move on to other issues.
“I believe the majority of the Board of Aldermen would support moving the monument to an alternate location had it been conclusively determined that it was on city property,” Tannehill said.
In her statement, Tannehill noted that the property issue was not instigated by the Board of Aldermen, but in response to citizen inquiries. An online petition to relocate the monument has 13,640 signatures.
“It is unjust and cruel for this town to ask its tax-paying Black residents (and their non-Black allies) to observe and confront this racist symbolism in their day to day lives,” Amy McDowell wrote as her reason for signing the petition. “We have to look at this thing on our way to work, on our way to church, on our way to school, on our way to dinner with friends. Get it out of here.”
The Board of Aldermen passed a motion confirming that Tannehill’s statement accurately reflects the position of the board and the process that unfolded surrounding the property issue.
Alderman Kesha Howell Atkinson made a second motion to confirm the Board of Alderman would have supported moving the monument to an alternate location had it been determined that it sits on city property.
Alderman Janice Antonow noted that Atkinson’s motion would clarify the board’s position to Oxford residents. The board discussed whether or not the motion was based on a hypothetical, then voted 4-3 to table the motion and moved on.