[image-1] Protesters and counter-protesters met under the gaze of the John C. Calhoun monument in Marion Square Monday evening as a gathering of a few dozen community members convened to protest the proposed removal of the statue from the park.
Divided by motivation and a chain-link fence, harsh words and debris were exchanged by those in attendance as monument supporters took turns at the podium in defense of Charleston’s history and of the history of the country as a whole.
“Go to Washington, D.C., every circle is a park, and in every circle there’s a statue,” said one participant who identified himself as Lee. “That’s the nation’s capital. Where are those statues? In parks — so what’s wrong with where this statue’s at?”
[image-2] History wasn’t the only talking point for those against the statue’s removal, as the cost to remove it seemed to outweigh the benefits of taking it down.
“I can think of a lot of other problems the money to move it could go to,” Lee said. “What’s the ratio of children who go to bed hungry every night?”
However, attendees aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement had a little more to say. As the protests wound down, a few counter-protesters found their way to the podium to address the crowd, drawing a quick response from the A/V team to silence the mic as he spoke.
“We are miseducated, and what I was trying to say before they cut the microphone off is that we have too many miseducated people perpetuating something that’s not supposed to be there,” said Charleston native Marques Washington. “What hurt me was to see the lady out there telling everybody the wrong history and saying, ‘This is my history,’ but no, that’s his story, but not the actual facts.”
Others in attendance stood firmly in the middle ground, attempting to hear and reach both sides of the literal and ideological fence.
“I didn’t come prepared to be very far on either side because I do personally understand the perspective of the people who are upset about the potential removal of history,” said one such attendant, Declyn Drejza. “However … in Germany, there are no Nazi commemorations, there are no statues of Hitler standing, unless they are in museums with the proper education put behind it.
“The clear and obvious middle ground is to put this statue in a museum where the history can be clearly explained to people and where it is not honoring this man standing so high above the whole city, someone who was standing for slavery.”
Charleston City Council is expected to make a decision regarding the statue’s proposed removal this week.