Pullen calls for Tal­bot Boys re­moval

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@star­dem.com

EAS­TON — First Dis­trict Demo­cratic con­gres­sional can­di­date Mike Pullen as­sem­bled with a group of pro­test­ers on the Tal­bot County Court­house lawn Thurs­day evening, Aug. 17, to call for the im­me­di­ate re­moval of the Con­fed­er­ate Tal­bot Boys statue.

Tal­bot County Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Jen­nifer Wil­liams said the coun­cil should not rush to a con­clu­sion over an is­sue this se­ri­ous.

“Those mon­u­ments have now be­come and per­haps al­ways been sym­bols of white supremacy and ral­ly­ing points for white su­prem­a­cists,” Pullen said, “and they have no place on pub­lic grounds and hal­lowed grounds that are re­served for the courts.”

The Tal­bot Boys mon­u­ment lists 84 Civil War vet­er­ans from Tal­bot County who fought for the Con­fed­er­acy. The statue at the top is of a Con­fed­er­ate color-bearer draped in a Con­fed­er­ate flag.

It is the only Civil War mon­u­ment on the Tal­bot County Cir­cuit Court­house grounds. The mon­u­ment was erected in 1914, and the statue of the color-bearer hold­ing the Con­fed­er­ate flag was added in 1916.

Sym­bols of the Con­fed­er­acy be­came con­tro­ver­sial af­ter a man who de­scribed him­self as a white su­prem­a­cist en­tered an African-Amer­i­can church in Charleston, S.C., and killed nine peo­ple dur­ing a Bi­ble study ses­sion in June 2015. Af­ter ward, com­mu­ni­ties across Mary­land, and the coun­try, re­assessed and re­moved Civil War Con­fed­er­ate sym­bols from pub­lic grounds.

Shortly af­ter the church shoot­ing, the Tal­bot NAACP pro­posed the Tal­bot County Coun­cil vote to re­move the Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment from the court­house lawn, move it else­where and erect a new statue depicting both Union and Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers from Tal­bot County.

The coun­cil twice voted to keep it on the court­house lawn, once in a fall 2015 closed ses­sion and later in a June 2016 pub­lic ses­sion, af­ter it was found the coun­cil vi­o­lated the state’s Open Meet­ings Act dur­ing the first vote. While coun­cil mem­bers did not want the statue re­moved, they said they were open to a pro­posal for a statue hon­or­ing the county’s Union vet­er­ans on the court­house grounds.

Now, af­ter a re­cent white na­tion­al­ist rally turned vi­o­lent and then deadly for one pro­tester in Char­lottesville, Va., Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues again have been thrust into cur­rent con­ver­sa­tions.

The statue of former U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Roger B. Taney — the au­thor of the in­fa­mous 1857 Dred Scott de­ci­sion that up­held slav­ery and de­nied cit­i­zen­ship to African Amer­i­cans — that pre­sides over the front lawn of the Mary­land State House was re­moved af­ter House Speaker Michael Busch, an Anne Arun­del County Demo­crat, and Gov. Larry Ho­gan called for its re­moval. In the early morn­ing hours of Aug. 16, Bal­ti­more city of­fi­cials had four Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues re­moved unan­nounced af­ter about a year of in­de­ci­sion on the is­sue.

Now, the Tal­bot NAACP and Pullen, former long­time at­tor­ney for the Tal­bot County Coun­cil, are call­ing for the Tal­bot Boys statue’s im­me­di­ate re­moval, say­ing it should not be dis­played on pub­lic grounds.

“The stat­ues ded­i­cated to the Con­fed­er­acy rep­re­sent those who fought un­der a dif­fer­ent flag and fought to di­vide Amer­ica and en­slave Amer­i­cans,” Pullen said.

The last time the Tal­bot Boys statue be­came con­tro­ver­sial, a pe­ti­tion move­ment called “Save the Tal­bot Boys” was started that wanted the statue to re­main on the court­house lawn, cit­ing its his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. A pe­ti­tion is be­ing cir­cu­lated by the Tal­bot NAACP that calls for its re­moval.

Tal­bot County Coun­cil mem­bers have been at­tend­ing the Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties con­fer­ence in Ocean City since other Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues in Mary­land were re­moved from pub­lic grounds.

Wil­liams said the coun­cil does not want to have a “knee-jerk re­ac­tion based on some­thing that hap­pened in an­other state.”

“This is much too se­ri­ous an is­sue just to ar­bi­trar­ily overnight do some­thing,” Wil­liams said. “That’s not, to me, how any­thing of this na­ture should be han­dled. It should be han­dled with a great deal of thought and con­sid­er­a­tion.”

The Tal­bot NAACP wants the Tal­bot Boys statue re­moved and a new statue to be erected that honors both sides of the Civil War.

Wil­liams said she sees the is­sue go­ing one of two ways: Con­tinue to en­cour­age a pro­posal for a Union statue, or move the Tal­bot Boys statue and have no Civil War statue on the court­house lawn.

The of­fer for a group to pro­pose a new statue, built with pri­vate funds in the same way Tal­bot Boys was more than 100 years ago, has been stand­ing since the coun­cil’s fi­nal vote on the is­sue last year. The coun­cil has not heard a pro­posal from any­one, Wil­liams said.

“We’re dis­ap­pointed that no one has taken that and moved for­ward with it, that why af­ter all the con­ver­sa­tion we had and all the thought that went into it, why has no one done this?” Wil­liams said.

Wil­liams said the coun­cil is will­ing to work with any group that wants to build a Union statue and ease any hur­dles it might come across, but “it’s not the county coun­cil’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to spend tax­pay­ers’ money in that way.”

One county res­i­dent has an of­fer, one that also has stood since last year.

Lo­cal Pete How­ell of fers to match dol­lar-for-dol­lar the first $1,000 any­one raises to de­sign, fund and build a Union memo­rial on the court­house lawn. He also has not heard a pro­posal from any­one.

“For me, an ideal sit­u­a­tion would be one of two things: Ei­ther erect a Union memo­rial mon­u­ment, very much like the one that stands there now with the names of Tal­bot County sol­diers who served the Union, and prob­a­bly some sort of statue above as a Union sol­dier, maybe draped in the stars and stripes,” How­ell said.

“And the other pos­si­ble out­come would be to have a Union memo­rial that is just an obelisk with the names of the Union sol­diers on it and re­move the sol­dier statue from the Con­fed­er­ate memo­rial,” How­ell said. “That’s seems to be the el­e­ment of the memo­rial that has in­cited so much con­tro­versy.”

How­ell said he can be reached at pi­rate­pete@goeas­ton.net.

To sign a pe­ti­tion call­ing for the re­moval of the Tal­bot Boys statue, visit pul­len­for.us.

PHOTO BY JOSH BOLLINGER

First Dis­trict Con­gres­sional can­di­date Mike Pullen, stand­ing cen­ter, on Thurs­day, Aug. 17, calls for the im­me­di­ate re­moval of the Con­fed­er­ate Tal­bot Boys statue, pic­tured in the back­ground. Also pic­tured are Tal­bot NAACP Pres­i­dent Richard Pot­ter, far left, and Ryan Ewing, far right, Pullen’s cam­paign man­ager.

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