In light of the controversy surrounding a Confederate soldier statue in downtown Gainesville, some residents feel history should be taken into account when deciding its fate.
Supporters of the statue remaining in downtown insist it should remain in place because of the Civil War history in Gainesville. On Aug. 17, 1864, the Battle of Gainesville was fought. It was declared a Confederate victory.
Now, the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners will decide whether to move the statue. There is currently no set time to discuss the issue.
Lunelle Siegel, 53, a Tampa resident traveled to Gainesville last week to speak before the commissioners. Her family has deep roots in the city, and she wants the statue to remain in its current place
Siegel said the battle was important because it involved local residents.
“Some extremists want to erase Florida history,” she said.
She hopes Gainesville’s Civil War history is taken into account when commissioners’ make their decision.
Last week, the statue was vandalized after someone spray-painted over the plaque reading, “In Memory of the Confederate Dead. 1861-1865.” Siegel thinks whoever committed the act is criminal.
It’s an inanimate object that isn’t hurting anybody, she said.
Jesse Arost, a Gainesville resident in favor of relocating the statue, agreed its history should be considered.
Arost, 29, said in recent weeks he had learned more about the area’s history from historians at the Matheson Museum. He also learned battle took place just down the road from its current home.
He believes the statue belongs at the Matheson in order to contextualize it
Arost said he thinks the controversy has more to do with political ideals than history, but maintains his position that the statue represents, and remembers, slavery.
In the weeks before the next public meeting, Arost hopes to speak with each county commissioner.
Peggy Macdonald, executive director of the Matheson, said she thinks the history should be taken into account.
The statue was erected as a remembrance of Confederate debt, Macdonald said. She added that in order to contextualize it, additional signs explaining the violent past should be put up to inform the public.
Macdonald said putting up a statue of an African-American Union soldier next to the Confederate statue would fully pay tribute to the battle.
“I think you should consider the history of anything before making a decision,” she said.