Banes: Not go­ing to be Vir­ginia

Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment in Cov­ing­ton Square dis­cussed at BOC meet­ing

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - DARRYL WELCH dwelch@cov­news.com

The con­tro­versy about what to do with Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments af­fect­ing the rest of the South came to New­ton County Tues­day night dur­ing the cit­i­zen com­ments por­tion of the New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers (BOC) meet­ing when some­body called for the BOC to vote on re­mov­ing the mon­u­ment to the county’s Civil War dead from the Cov­ing­ton Square.

The cit­i­zen, who broached the sub­ject of re­mov­ing the mon­u­ment a lit­tle over two months ago, asked that a vote to re­move the mon­u­ment be placed on the agenda of a fu­ture BOC meet­ing.

“I want to be­gin to ask now to place the re­move­ment of the statue in city square on the agenda to be voted on. We at least need to have the vote to have it re­moved,” he said.

Af­ter the first cit­i­zen, sev­eral oth­ers spoke, both for and against the re­moval of the mon­u­ment, which was placed on the square in 1906.

Dur­ing com­mis­sioner com­ments, District 3 Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz said it’s time to have a con­ver­sa­tion about the mon­u­ment.

“I’m go­ing to ad­dress the mon­u­ment,” she said.” We’ve had some­one present to us at least since

June at ev­ery board meet­ing. One panel is espe­cially of­fen­sive to me so I can un­der­stand the sen­ti­ments that have been ex­pressed tonight.

“I also un­der­stand that his­tory can­not be erased. But the prob­lem that I have with the mon­u­ment is that we’re not re­ally teach­ing about his­tory. I think this is an op­por­tu­nity for us to re­ally teach the his­tory. Now, there are two op­por­tu­ni­ties that we have. We can re­move the mon­u­ment and put the mon­u­ment in a Con­fed­er­ate ceme­tery, which we have in this com­mu­nity. Or, we can take an­other step, and that is to use in­ter­pre­ta­tive mark­ers used in na­tional parks and na­tional mon­u­ments all over this coun­try to re­ally ex­plain the his­tory.”

Schulz went on to say the dis­cus­sion needs to take place and en­cour­aged the Chair­man and the BOC to de­ter­mine what kind of fo­rum is needed for the dis­cus­sion.

District 4 Com­mis­sioner J.C. Hen­der­son dis­cussed grow­ing up in a seg­re­gated New­ton County and called for the es­tab­lish­ment of an African-Amer­i­can his­tory mu­seum.

“We need an Afro Amer­i­can his­tor­i­cal mu­seum to dis­play his­tory so that our chil­dren who don’t know any­thing about the strug­gle can know about it,” he said.

Chair­man Mar­cello Banes told cit­i­zens and com­mis- sion­ers that he has prayed about the topic since it was first brought up in June.

“I want ev­ery­body to re­ally un­der­stand this. Ever since this has been go­ing on, I want to tell you what the chair­man does,” he said. “I get up and I come over here and walk around the square and pray. New­ton County is not go­ing to be place where blacks and whites are against each other. It’s just not.

“This room is not for that. This is not what New­ton County is about. Our kids, they don’t need to see what even­tu­ally this is go­ing to come to if it doesn’t stop.”

Banes ex­plained that in or­der to get some­thing on the BOC agenda, three com­mis­sion­ers have to agree to it.

“The pro­ce­dure is if you want to get that on the agenda, you talk to three com­mis­sion­ers. That’s the pro­ce­dure. And if you can get them to put it on the agenda, it’s on the agenda,” he said.

He con­tin­ued, “We come here to han­dle the busi­ness of New­ton County. I’m go­ing to keep walk­ing around ev­ery morn­ing un­til this place be­comes a place of peace. I’m pray­ing for peace in this place.

“We’re not go­ing to di­vide this county. We’re not go­ing to di­vide this com­mu­nity. This is not Vir­ginia. It’s not. And it’s not go­ing to be Vir­ginia. I don’t care who likes it or don’t like it, it’s not go­ing to be Vir­ginia.”

At the end of his com­ments, Banes in­vited any­one who wants to talk to him to make an ap­point­ment.

Darryl Welch | The Cov­ing­ton News

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