Arizona takes center stage in the ongoing battle over removal of symbols honoring the Confederacy.
The Arizona Republic reported that a group of African-American leaders held a news conference on Monday to call on Gov. Doug Ducey to remove six memorials honoring Confederate soldiers.
“We believe that these monuments have been erected to intimidate, terrorize and strike fear in the hearts of Arizonans, particularly African-Americans, while inspiring and emboldening white supremacists,” East Valley NAACP spokeswoman Collette Watson said at the news conference.
Strong opposition comes from the Arizona division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which vows to fight the removal, according to The Republic.
Standing with Watson at the news conference were representative from Black Lives Matter Phoenix and the Arizona Informant newspaper, as well as religious and political leaders. Watson called on the governor to “stand up against these forces of hatred and remove these symbols from public lands in the state of Arizona.”
Meanwhile, Ducey’s spokesman has declined to reveal the governor’s position, U.S. News & World Report said. He urged the Black leaders to petition the appropriate board or commission on this matter.
Speaking at the news conference, state Rep. Reginald Bolding criticized the governor for not taking a stance on this issue, The Republic reported.
“Many times at the Legislature and many times in Arizona, we hear the governor take stands on issues that he cares deeply about, whether it’s cutting taxes or whether it’s promoting school vouchers,” he said. “For the governor to try to push the buck to citizens or to push the buck to a board that he appoints is irresponsible.”
This is not the first time that Black Arizonans are addressing memorials to the Confederacy. In 2015, Bolding led the call to rename Jefferson Davis Highway.
Historically, Arizona has a minor link to the Civil War. A Confederate force briefly occupied Tucson during the Civil War, before Arizona became a state, Arizona’s state historian Marshall Trimble told The Associated Press.
According to the Phoenix New Times, White Southerners who relocated to Arizona after World War II “brought their fondness for intimidating Black citizens with them.”
Arizona’s oldest Confederate monument was erected in 1961 by the United Daughter of the Confederacy, The Tucson Sentinel reported.