ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The overwhelming majority of people who spoke at an Allendale Township meeting Monday supported keeping a statue of a Confederate soldier that has drawn criticism in recent weeks.
The statue can be found at the Veterans Garden of Honor at 68th Avenue and Lake Michigan Drive among several honoring those who served in wars from the Revolution to Korea. Civil rights activists have called for the removal of the likeness of a soldier carrying a Confederate battle flag, which stands next to the image of a Union soldier and over a depiction of a young slave.
The township board decided not to vote right away on whether to remove the statue from the park. Trustees wanted to seek more input before making a decision. Some seemed to like the idea of adding a plaque to the statue rather than changing or taking it down.
But members did hear public comment from about 40 people on the matter. Most of those argued the statue had historic value. They opposed removing it, some saying it wasn’t offensive and others saying it served as a reminder not to let history repeat itself. Some noted that the person who brought up removing it, Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists Spokesman Mitch Kahle, is not from Allendale Township and therefore shouldn’t have a say.
“We are one nation. If you don’t like it, leave. It’s that simple,” Patrick Muir, a Robinson Township resident said at the meeting. “Those of you who say that that statue out there does not give honor to a veteran, shame on you and shame on your ignorance of education.”
Kahle himself spoke at the meeting, asking the board to do the “moral, right thing” by altering the statue. He said it was offensive to African Americans and degraded veterans by honoring an enemy.
Some of the others who spoke agreed with him, noting that the preservation of slavery was part of the Confederacy and calling the statue a “monument to white supremacy.” One said that the board should get the opinion of people of color, who were not well represented among meeting attendees.
“Most Christians would agree that Satan is an important part of Christian history. But if you start putting up statues of the fellow, people are going to start making assumptions about what you actually believe and the ideals that you actually glorify,” Ty Volpo of Allendale said. “To hold this symbol in the same honor as veterans such as those who fought against the greatest evil our world has ever known in World War II is an insult.”
Last week, demonstrators covered the statue with a plastic bag and placed notes on it calling it racist.
Similar debates about Confederate monuments have been happening elsewhere in the country, particularly among a recent wave of calls for police reform and racial equity.