Updated on: 7/01/2015 at 4:42 p.m.
A ten-foot tall copper sculpture of a U.S. Civil War Confederate soldier stands outside the Alachua County Administration Building in downtown Gainesville.
The anonymous soldier holds a musket. His hat, creased shirt and pants are intended to represent and commemorate the Confederate dead at the Stonewall Camp No. 1493.
“In memory of the Confederate dead 1861 1865,” is written on the statue’s front base, with a Confederate flag in between the years.
The left side of the base reads, “They fell for us, and for them should fall the tears of a nation’s grief.” The right side: “They counted the cost and in defense of right they paid the martyr’s price.”
Jesse Arost feels the monumental statue represents a different message.
In the wake of the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, Confederate symbols across the nation are being eradicated. Arost feels the same should be done with the statue in town.
Another petition has also been started on change.org requesting the statue remain where it is. This petition has over 500 signatures.
An event on the Facebook page invites the public to congregate Thursday, July 9, to demand the county remove the statue. The event also provides an opportunity to sign the petition.
The page asks the public to attend the Alachua Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, July 14, to voice their opinions on why the statue should be taken down.
Arost said he plans to present the petition at the meeting.
Commissioner Ken Cornell said he has been contacted about taking the statue down, but wants to hear the history of why it was erected why some want to see it taken down.
“I think the real value is not in either keeping it up or taking it down, but for me the real value is the public’s discussion as it relates to the policies that we have at the county commission,” Cornell said. “Everybody’s voice is important.”
Alachua County Commission Chairman Charles Chestnut IV did not have a comment about the statue.
Commissioner Robert Karl Hutchinson reflected on the words written on the monument and how the idea behind them may no longer be relevant, which he shared on the Facebook page.
“A major goal of secession was to retain slavery which should not be considered sacred in 1904 or 2015,” Hutchinson wrote.
The sculptor John G. Segesman created the soldier after the Kirby Smith and J.J. Finley chapters of the Daughters of the Confederacy requested it be made. It was unveiled in 1904.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy, organized in 1894, is the oldest patriotic organization in the United States.
Hutchinson mentions in his post the option of moving the statue to the Matheson Historical Society’s park, where it would be among other sculptures already there depicting the history of Alachua County.
“I think it’s really important to understand that removing the statue is not enough. It’s not anywhere close to enough,” Arost said. “It’s not actually going to cause any real change on the ground for the oppression that people face in this country.”
Arost said the idea and hope behind the event is to rally people to support the ongoing cause and ongoing struggle of those who are oppressed.
“It’s going to require tremendous amount of work,” Arost said. “We need everyone’s support, all of the supporters we can get, to end white supremacy in this country.”