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Fort Smith Confederate statue gains counter petition

A. Drew Smith
adsmith@swtimes.com
A Confederate monument stands on the grounds of the Sebastian County Courthouse in Fort Smith on June 9, 2020. The statue is more than 30 feet tall with a 6 foot Confederate army soldier on top. The statue was placed in 1903 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. There have been petitions signs this week to both remove it from the courthouse, and keep it at the courthouse.

Nearly a week after a petition popped up to remove the statue commemorating Confederate soldiers, a counter petition has been created to express the desire to keep things as they are.

The new counter petition by Mike Ferstl at Change.org reads as follows:

“This statue has stood since 1903 on the court house lawn, over 2 stories tall. It represents a part of American History, for all to learn from. Moving it would only accomplish satisfying a knee jerk reaction from a small part of our citizenship, & incur a hefty price tag & risk of damage if moved. Just as we no longer hang people as capital punishment, we nonetheless wouldn’t consider removing Judge Parker’s gallows, or his new statue. It’s time we stopped being ’offended’ at every turn, and leave history alone!”

In 1985, the Department of the Interior declared the statue to be of statewide significance. In that document, it is noted that there was objection to the statue from the start, but that objection was overruled and the statue was allowed.

The original petition reached 2,000 signatures on Thursday morning and the second petition stood at 750 at the same time.

The debate about Confederate memorabilia is one that is as old as the war itself.

Those in favor of keeping the monuments and flags claim that it is part of the Southern heritage and getting rid of it would erase history. One petition signer cited communist countries as the only ones who try to erase history.

The other side of the argument states that these same monuments and flags represent a losing army who fought for racist ideas. A petitioner on this side cited Germany removing all Nazi emblems from anywhere other than museums and cemeteries.

Those who participate in this debate bring up the Civil War, Jim Crow era and other historical events to support their side. Different states have responded differently to these statues.

Recently, the United States Marines released a statement that they would remove all Confederate flags from government property and NASCAR stated it would no longer fly Confederate flags at its races.