More than 60 people gathered in front of a Confederate monument on Calloway County courthouse grounds the evening of July 15, the majority of protesters urging for the removal of the monument. This protest follows the county fiscal court unanimously approving a resolution the same day keeping the monument there.
Protesters, most wearing masks and some holding signs with phrases such as “tear it down,” “your ‘heritage’ is racist,” and “Black lives matter,” calling for the monument to be removed. Some protesters got into heated arguments with others opposing the monument’s removal, with conversation turning into yelling and chanting.
The protest was peaceful, with Murray Police Department officers observing nearby. A June protest in Murray calling for the monument’s removal turned violent when a man allegedly assaulted protesters with pepper spray. Most people at the July 15 protest were at the monument — which features a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee — in reaction to the fiscal court’s resolution.
Regina Hudspeth is a 61-year-old Black woman who’s lived in Murray her entire life. She considered the unanimous resolution to be “appalling,” and wanted to be at the protest to express that advocates weren’t dropping the issue of removing and relocating the monument.
“There’s a small handful of African-Americans and minorities here…but it was going to have to take more than just the minorities here to get behind it,” Hudspeth said. “You hear the argument of ‘It’s been here all this long and nobody’s ever really complained about it.’ Yes, but why complain when you’re just a handful of people, and you don’t have a majority of people behind you? Now we have that.”
Hudspeth said she wants to express that she doesn’t want the monument destroyed, but instead relocated to a place that’s not on public property.
The protest was organized on Facebook by Ray Horton following the fiscal court passing the resolution.. Horton, an Assistant Professor of English at Murray State University, said it was frustrating to see the fiscal court propose and approve the resolution stating intent to keep the monument at the courthouse, with the resolution not being listed on the agenda.
“They’re hoping that this will just go away. They’re really banking on people opposed to the statue saying ‘Alright, we lost. We’re going to forget about it,’” said Horton. “I really wanted something to happen downtown tonight right after that came out, just to emphasize ‘We’re still here.’ We’re not going to stop fighting this issue.”
Horton said there needs to be a more robust discussion of the monument, which he doesn’t believe the fiscal court is taking seriously.
He also previously called for the resignation of Judge-Executive Kenny Imes after the fiscal court delayed action on the monument at the court’s June meeting, something he still stands by. He said Imes allowed for a public speaker opposing the monument at the June meeting to use white supremacist and neo-Nazi rhetoric in arguing against the monument’s removal, referring to a Murray resident comparing the removal of the statue to “cultural genocide.”
“I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere. I think it’s something that people are still going to be talking about,” Horton said. “It may just be a war of attrition at this point.”