Politics

A bipartisan group of community leaders and lawmakers called for the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue from the state Capitol rotunda during a rally on Wednesday.

The gathering came in response to the violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, over that city’s removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

“Do not ever tell me that Confederate symbols have no meaning,” said Sadiqa Reynolds, president of the Louisville Urban League.

“We have fought in America’s wars, we have nursed your children, we have prayed for your souls and still when we walk through our country and see the symbols of hate that we endure being flown, raised and honored, we are told to get over it.”

One person died and more than 30 were injured in the Charlottesville protests.

The violence has renewed opposition to the white marble statue of Davis in the Kentucky Capitol rotunda, which has drawn fire for years.

The state’s NAACP chapter president said earlier this week that the organization is renewing its push to have the statue removed.

On Wednesday, State Sen. Wil Schroder, a Republican from Wilder, joined the call to remove Davis’ likeness from the building.

“The rotunda is reserved for those who built our commonwealth up and made it stronger, not for those who try to tear it apart,” Schroder said.

Former Democratic State Treasurer Johnathan Miller and former Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson also spoke in favor of removing the statue on Wednesday.

Requests for comment from Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Jeff Hoover were not returned on Wednesday.

In 2015, state politicians from both parties advocated for the removal of the Davis statue after nine people were fatally shot at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The effort was scuttled when the state’s Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted against relocating the statue, instead promising to create new ways of educating Capitol visitors about “the context of the Civil War.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Matt Bevin called the removal of Confederate monuments a “sanitization of history,” comparing it to the actions of authoritarian rulers.

Bevin’s stance is a reveral from his position in 2015 when he joined advocates calling for Davis’ statue to be moved to a museum.

Many elected officials singled out white supremacists for their role in instigating the violence in Charlottesville, though President Donald Trump and Bevin have blamed counter-protesters as well.

The Historic Properties Advisory Commission oversees the statues in the rotunda, which also include figures of U.S. Senator Henry Clay, Vice President Alben Barkley and pioneer surgeon Ephraim McDowell.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.