EASTON, Md. (AP) — A county on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has voted to keep a memorial honoring Confederate soldiers, sparking a protest outside the meeting as activists said officials had used the coronavirus pandemic as an “excuse” to shelve the issue.
The Talbot County Council voted 3 to 2 to keep the memorial on the lawn of the Talbot County Courthouse, The Washington Post reported. The “Talbot Boys” memorial commemorates more than 80 soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. It was dedicated in 1916, more than 50 years after the end of the Civil War, during the Jim Crow era, when states imposed new segregation laws.
A measure to remove the monument was introduced earlier this year following the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests against racism and police brutality. Floyd died in May after a white Minneapolis pressed his knee against the Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes as he pleaded for air. Since then, numerous Confederate statues and monuments to American slave owners have come down across the South.
Republican council members Chuck F. Callahan, Frank Divilio and Laura E. Price voted to keep the memorial. Officials said they were only considering emergency legislation during the coronavirus pandemic and said there had been limited public input on the measure.
“This is not your ordinary piece of legislation,” Price said. “If the statue is simply removed, there will never be a statue that represents a very complex period in the county’s history.”
Richard Potter, president of the Talbot County branch of the NAACP, slammed those explanations.
“It’s a bunch of surface-level excuses that continue to uphold systemic racism in Talbot County,” he said.
Talbot County Council President Corey W. Pack, a Republican, said the vote was “disappointing” and said using the pandemic as a reason was a “farce.” He said that members of the public have not been allowed to attend meetings in person, but 28 callers at a public hearing on the statue spoke against it last month, while just four spoke in favor of keeping it.
Pack adjourned the meeting early as protesters outside gathered and chanted, “No justice, no peace!”