SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A petition to remove the Civil War Memorial in Forsyth Park, which was vandalized, in part, on Thursday, is reigniting a debate about its future.
Anita Narcisse started a petition with over 5,000 signatures asking for the “removal of the Confederate monument and statue as well as the bronze busts of Confederate generals Lafayette McLaws and Francis Bartow located in Forsyth Park.”
As a biracial woman, Narcisse says she was passionate about doing something to help those who couldn’t get their voices heard.
She says she’s now working with businesses to make their voices louder in order to incite change.
This petition from Narcisse is one of many attempts in recent years to relocate the monument from Forsyth Park.
Charlottesville rally sparks discussion in Savannah
The deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia brought back a nationwide discussion about Confederate symbols in the country.
Part of the local conversation centered around the statue in Forsyth, which was erected to honor the Confederate dead at the end of the Civil War.
Over 5,000 people responded to a survey for public comment, and a majority of the respondents did not want to make any changes.
According to their 30-page long report, the task force recommended measures, including renaming it from the “Confederate Monument” to “Civil War Memorial” as well as relocating the Bartow and McLaws monuments to Laurel Grove North Cemetery.
City Council voted to approve all the recommendations from the task force in February 2018 after the committee presented their findings.
The following year, the Georgia State Senate passed SB 77, which provides new protections for monuments, including Confederate memorials.
In part, this law makes it illegal for anyone, including a city or county, to relocate, remove, conceal, obscure, or alter a publicly owned monument.
In other words, the bill stopped the recommendations “dead in their tracks” according to Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.
A path ahead, with some legal questions
Narcisse says she wants city leaders to make a plea to the state for the monument’s removal.
“What are we saying when we pass a law that is trying to protect moving past what we established so very long ago when we erected the monument in the first place,” said Narcisse.
Johnson says the city cannot move or alter the monument unless state law changes.
“Savannah, but also cities across the state cannot do this until law is changed, but as we know public support changes laws,” said Johnson.
Dr. Jamal Toure was a member of the task force in 2017. He says the recommendations they gave the city predated the Senate bill, so the legality of their recommendations is up for the present council to decide.
“Let the new council go on and proceed with it, because we know there’s some legal issue that comes into play, in regards to the state, and any other folks that then want to get involved,” said Toure.
WSAV News 3 reached out to State Sen. Lester Jackson who says he never supported the bill and plans on sponsoring a measure to get rid of the bill meant to protect monuments.