Civil rights leaders want six Confederate memorials in Arizona removed

PHOENIX – Local civil rights and faith leaders are pushing for the removal of six Confederate memorials in Arizona, calling them symbols of terrorism and bigotry.

“We can’t go through our daily lives honoring symbols of hate, symbols of separation, symbols of segregation designed to tear us apart and deepen our wounds,” said Rep. Reginald Bolding.

Leaders of local NAACP chapters and Black Lives Matter Phoenix said taxpayer dollars should not be spent to maintain the memorials, including one on the grounds of the state Capitol.

The group, including local clergy, asked Gov. Doug Ducey to lead the removal. Ducey’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Bolding, a Democrat who represents parts of the southeast Valley and downtown Phoenix, said the 2015 shooting deaths of nine people at a historically black church in Charleston is a sign that celebration of the Confederacy has no place in a modern, free society.

Roy Tatum Jr., president of the East Valley NAACP, said memorials to Confederate leaders and soldiers are a misguided symbol of commemoration.

Roy Tatum Jr., president of the East Valley NAACP, said Confederate memorials mark an era of terrorism and hate. Civil rights and faith leaders asked for six memorials in Arizona to be removed. (Photo by Chris Benincaso/Cronkite News)

“They were the terrorists of their day,” he said. “They were enslavers. They were secessionists. They were segregationists. They were haters, racial bigots. Many of them lynched, robbed, raped, killed many African-Americans and also abolitionist sympathizers.”

Robert Wilbanks, a historian and genealogist, said that 80 to 85 percent of Confederate soldiers came from families who didn’t own slaves. Wilbanks said keeping the memorials helps to acknowledge a history the nation does not want to repeat.

“Having something to remember so as not to erase it completely from our historical consciousness as a country is my opposition,” Wilbanks said.

Geneologist and historian Robert Wilbanks said Confederate monuments such as the one behind him at Wesley Bolin Plaza on the state Capitol grounds should be preserved because it’s important to remember history. (Photo by Chris Benincaso/Cronkite News)

He acknowledged that white supremacists sometimes use the symbol of the Confederacy to promote hate crimes and hate speech but said most contemporary meanings of Confederate symbols remain important for states’ rights.

In recent weeks, New Orleans dismantled four Confederate monuments in a move hailed by those who said they symbolized hate and criticized by those who said the changes erased history.

The Baltimore mayor also is considering removing the city’s Confederate monuments.

The Arizona group wants six memorials removed immediately:

– Memorial to Arizona Confederate troops, Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix.
– Arizona Confederate veterans memorial, Greenwood Cemetery, Phoenix.
– Jefferson Davis Highway, U.S. Highway 60 at Peralta Road, Apache Junction.
– Arizona Confederate veterans memorial, Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sierra Vista.
– Battle of Picacho Pass monument, Picacho Peak State Park.
– Monument at the four graves of the only Confederate soldiers killed in action (by a group of Apaches) in Arizona, Dragoon Springs stagecoach station east of Tucson.

(Map by Devin Conley/Cronkite News)