Almost 900 people tuned in to Facebook Live to watch the Lafayette County Supervisors’ meeting to hear community members’ arguments for and against relocating the Confederate monument in front of the county courthouse.
The board, which consists of only white men, listened to both sides for an hour, and will vote on whether or not to move forward with relocation. At 3:30 p.m. on Monday, before the 5 p.m. meeting, over 100 protesters from the Take It Down Oxford group stood outside the chancery building to protest against the statue’s location.
Supervisor Mike Roberts opened the meeting with a prayer, and each side received 30 minutes to state their opinions and concerns. Donald Cole, a former assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs at Ole Miss, was one of the first to speak. In 1970, Cole was one of the eight Black students arrested at a Black Student Union protest against racism at the university.
“That statue is the most divisive, racial element in Lafayette County,” he said. “It represents no everlasting truth, and it was based on false prophecies. It does not represent my heritage or the heritage of anyone who looks like me, and we had no input on it.”
Starke Miller, who gives private Civil War tours around the Oxford and University community, gave a brief history of the Square’s statue during his time to speak. Miller said that relocating the statue equates to erasing history.
He added that the removal of Confederate monuments was only the beginning of a “disease” and asked that the board “please put a stop to the desecration of monuments.”
Johnny Morgan, who hosts political events for the Good Ole Boys and Gals group, defended the statue, citing that the Civil War was not fought for slavery, but over taxes on cotton. This, he said, proves that the statue is not racist.
However, a Declaration from the January 1861 Mississippi convention on whether to secede from the Union said, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.”
Arami Harris, an African American studies major at the university, teared up as she spoke to supervisors. She said that since she moved to Oxford eight years ago, Jim Crow-era beliefs still haunt the city and county. She said as a coach’s daughter, she said that she saw some of the same white people who cheered for Black athletes also hold beliefs that hurt the Black community.
“What this tells me is that Black lives are only valued when there are some type of talent on display,” she said. “You all have no idea what it is like for your skin color to double as not only armor but a threat.”
“It is time to do away with devise rhetoric that promotes inequality,” Harris said. “I want (the board of supervisors) to be at the forefront at that sort of change because we don’t have that sort of power.”
The board did not vote at the end of its meeting, which ended without disruption. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for July 6.