April Warren, Gainesville Sun, September 22, 2015
After taking voluminous public comment on the matter, the County Commission voted late Tuesday night to give the county’s controversial Confederate soldier statue to the Matheson History Museum.
The motion, made by Commissioner Robert Hutchinson, also called for the Matheson to display the monument in its public outside space; use private funding to move, install and maintain it; and the move would only occur after the county engineer approves the tools and techniques planned to move it.
The motion passed 3-2, with Commissioners Lee Pinkoson and Ken Cornell dissenting.
During the meeting Pinkoson said the monument is meant to honor the dead, and while he is not African-American and might not understand the tragedies that the community suffered in the past, he didn’t support moving the statue but would support erecting a plaque at the site that would explain that many touched by the Civil War deserve to be remembered.
The statue of a soldier, nicknamed “Old Joe,” stands tall near downtown Gainesville, just behind the County Commission building. He is poised clutching a gun and standing atop a piece of stone that says it is in memory of the Confederate dead.
More than 20 people spoke during the citizen comment section of the meeting, which lasted more than an hour and a half. Viewpoints were split down the middle with some calling the statue a symbol of enslavement and racism that still continues today. Others called the statue a piece of their history, proud or otherwise.
Anthony Sabatini, a first lieutenant with the Florida National Guard, said the statue represents the lineage of the unit he comes from. He said the statue is not meant in celebration nor is it political.
“It’s about the people who died,” Sabatini said.
Ryan Cox, who was born in Mississippi, also supported the statue remaining in its place.
“This is going to fuel a backlash and right now there’s too many white Southerners that are scared to come forward to tell the truth,” Cox said.
Kali Blount also spoke against the statue, referencing one of the monument’s inscriptions: They fell for us and for them should fall the tears of a nation’s grief.
“Who is ‘us’?” Blount asked, “It’s not me.”
The other side of the statue states: They counted the cost and in defense of right they paid the martyr’s price.
Blount said a martyr is someone who dies for a noble cause and the current saying “spits in the face of those who were in oppression at that time.”