Supervisors, community seek common ground on Confederate monument

By KAREN FIORETTI,

A standing-room-only crowd attended the Attala County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday morning to make their feelings known about a controversial proposal to relocate the Confederate States of America statue from the county courthouse grounds in downtown Kosciusko.

Jerone Garland presented the proposal and his reasoning (detailed in a related story at http://ow.ly/Q2Su30ezpec)  which is governed by state regulations preventing monuments from being destroyed, though relocation is permitted (as detailed at http://ow.ly/ezsL30ezpin).

Several in attendance said they view the statue’s symbolism differently from Garland and don’t see it as having anything to do with race or slavery.

“Slavery was an abomination,” said one woman, “but that statue doesn’t show racism, it was to honor family that fought in the war.”

The statue bears the names of soldiers “whose bodies were never recovered, to represent those who could not have a proper burial,” said another woman in the audience. “They fought because of duty, not because of slavery.”

Garland said after the meeting that even if you interpret the statue’s symbolism that way, there is a better place for it.

“I believe a monument honoring the memory of unburied confederate soldiers should be properly located on hallowed ground, with the local graves of his fallen comrades, not a location to make a political statement,” he said.

Garland told those gathered that the perception outsiders have of Mississippi as upholding the symbols of the Confederacy has a negative impact on the local economy.

“I love my state. This is my home and I love Kosciusko and I love Attala County. I want to see us prosper and grow,” said Garland, who believes that many businesses avoid locating here because of the perception of racial tension. “That is what the world sees. We know better, but the world doesn’t.”

One audience member said he does not believe removal of these symbols will make a difference in the economics of the area.

“They don’t come here because they just want cheap labor,” the man said.

Though emotions were high at times, most expressed desire to work together as a community to find the best solution everyone can accept.

“We elected them and there will be some people displeased (no matter the decision),” said Sonny Branning, “but what is our attitude when all is said and done? Let’s get behind whatever happens.”

Kary Ellington, chairman of the board, closed the hearing saying the board is taking the proposal under advisement, but that alternate solutions would be welcomed.

“He gave us a situation; he gave us a proposal to correct the situation. Until we come up with something that is going to exceed his proposal and solution, we’re just going back and forth,” said Ellington. “That is what we need to work toward. Any of the constituents in this county who can come up with a more reasonable proposal to address the situation, this board would gladly hear it.”

Washington said the board would continue discussing the matter and inform he public when a decision is made.

After the meeting, Garland said he was generally pleased, no matter the eventual decision.

“It was good. We had a conversation and people were able to express how they felt,” he said. “Hopefully, we can come to a decision that everyone can accept that is in the best interest of Attala County.”